Fire the bricks!

Saturday we traveled to see Emanuel put the finishing touches on his huge brick oven (20,000 bricks), and to have a ‘lighting ceremony’ when he lights all the charcoal that will bake the bricks. He used 180? sacks of charcoal, interspersed between rows of bricks to achieve a uniform fire/heat around all the bricks.
Brick firing (1)

You can see how hard all the couples are working…as we watch Emanuel and his brother and some helpers finish the brick pyramid.

Brick firing (2)

There are two parts to the pyramid: you can see them here: the inside is full of stacked mud bricks in rows, with black charcoal placed between rows. Then there is an outer shell installed, with a small air space between the inside bricks and the outer wall. The joints of the bricks on the outer wall are filled/covered with mud to seal the entire perimeter.

Brick firing (9)

Here is a close-up of the outside wall with the mud filled joints

Brick firing (18)

This is one of the finished sides, and the place where the kiln will be lit (you can see the charcoal spilling out of the rows at the bottom)

Brick firing (19)

The back of the pyramid

Brick firing (21)

Here are the men putting in the last courses of bricks, and installing the last mud on the outside walls

Brick firing (24)

The final mud is installed at the top of the last side

Brick firing (27)

A large fire is started with wood during the final phase. The hot ashes from this fire will be used to start the charcoal.

Brick firing (34)

This is what the top of the pyramid looks like: completely covered with charcoal. Also, the space between the pyramid and outside wall is full of charcoal, and there are ‘chutes’ of charcoal made inside the pyramid also, so that the fire can get everywhere.

Brick firing (35)

Here is Emanuel putting the finishing touches on the top of his brick oven

Brick firing (37)

Looking down from the top at the two men finishing the side of the pyramid

Brick firing (40)

Emanuel taking one last look at his handiwork before firing the kiln

Brick firing (42)

After a short prayer to bless the work, the hot coals from the fire were shoveled onto the charcoal at the side. Each of us was given the privilege to put some coals to start the charcoal.

Brick firing (45)

After just a few minutes you could see inside some of the cracks and see how far the fire had progressed into the center of the pyramid.

Brick firing (46)

Now it is just time to wait. It takes about one week for the fire to work its way through the entire pyramid, and another week for the bricks to cool enough to be able to open up the outside walls and begin to use the fired bricks. The heat from the oven during that first week is so intense you cannot come too close–in fact Emanuel says they come out and cook things on the oven, it stays so hot (we suggested marshmellows…but no one knew what we were talking about! what, no smores in the Congo?)

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