Palaces to house the king and his court were often built out of the same materials and in the same basic forms as ordinary houses, although palaces had thicker walls, more elaborate designs, and larger spaces. Some palaces were so large they resembled towns inside of towns. In what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the palaces of Kuba kings were mazelike in their complexity. They were typically situated on a mound in the center of town so that the king could see the entire town from the palace. A palace had two main sections: one for the king and one for his wives and children. Mats woven with beautiful designs formed the palace walls. Because of their fragility and impermanence, these mats required constant maintenance. Architects kept plans and records of palace and town layouts so that public buildings, streets, plazas, private compounds, and the palace itself could be re-created if the capital had to move.
In Nigeria, the Yoruba built more permanent palaces of sun-dried mud bricks. These palaces consisted of a series of courtyards, with each courtyard flanked by four rectangular units. Mud bricks formed the outer walls of each unit, and an overhanging roof shaded a veranda on the courtyard side. At the entrance to every Yoruba palace was a set of double wooden doors, intricately carved with abstract designs and images of human and animal figures. The Olowo Palace in Owo, southeastern Nigeria, had as many as 100 courtyards. Each courtyard had a specific function and was dedicated to a particular deity. The largest, said to have been twice the size of an American football field, was used for public assemblies and festivals. Some courtyards were paved with quartz pebbles or broken pottery. Pillars supporting the veranda roofs were carved with statues of the king mounted on a horse or shown with his senior wife.
In 17th-century Ghana, art and architectural traditions of the Ashanti Kingdom proclaimed the godlike powers of the king. For example, much of the art associated with the king was made of gold, a symbol of endurance, the soul, and the giving and safeguarding of life. The king represented the soul and vitality of the nation, and gold reinforced this image of him. The Ashanti king’s palace had several oblong courtyards surrounded by rectangular buildings. The walls of the palace compound and the shrines included inside were decorated with curving, abstract designs modeled out of mud and painted. Although the Ashanti never converted to Islam, Muslims living nearby probably influenced these decorations. Indeed, the patterns recall those of Hausa houses in northern Nigeria, where Islam is strong.
- African Regalia (egrejeen.wordpress.com)