Mali : Timbuktu manuscripts find new life in Bamako

Exfiltrated during the occupation of northern Mali in 2012 by the terrorists, the ancient manuscripts of Timbuktu regain a new breath in Bamako.

Here, SAVAMA DCI, Safeguarding and Valorization of the Manuscripts for the Defense of Islamic Culture NGO, is one of the structures that restores and digitizes these ancient documents.

« In the workshop boxes are made to protect the manuscripts against dust, moisture, heat and also against bad handling. The boxes make it possible to prolong the life of the manuscripts ». explains Fousseni Kouyate, head of physical preservation of the manuscripts.

Exposed to various hazards, the manuscripts are first cleaned. A work that requires a lot of patience in view of their fragility.

After dust removal, special attention is given to cataloging.

A section is dedicated to the classification of documents. It handles all the information concerning the manuscripts including their condition, title and author.

Once this work is completed, they are paged, saved in the database and then forwarded to the scanning lab.

Each studio consists of a camera connected to a computer. The team scans between 500 and 600 images daily.

« The images are stored in the computer and after two or three days of work, the images are dumped on the external hard disk and then copied to the server » indicates Souleymane Diarra, Chief of Digitization Section

Most manuscripts are held by families in Timbuktu. But some are reluctant to digitize them.

« There are some manuscript holders who totally disagree with digitization because they do not understand why digitization is done. So we need to educate people so that they understand that digitization is an integral part of manuscript conservation. If we ever lose a hard copy, we can use the electronic copy », says Abdel Kader Haïdara, Executive President SAVAMA-DCI NGO

 These texts written by scholars from the ancient Mali empire include a wide variety of subjects.

Dr Abdoulkadri Idrissa Maïga, General Director Ahmed Baba Institute of Timbuktu

« There is everything. First in terms of discipline, but also in terms of domain, we have manuscripts that talk about corruption, good governance, conflict management, transformation of societies and so on ».

The challenge today remains the exploitation of these documents by a wide public. But first, they have to be translated into other languages.

We are in our early days. But rest assured, we can only say that our mission is accomplished only when the contents of the manuscripts can be exploited by all the researchers and all concerned. This can not be possible if the translation is not made in the local languages, that is to say, in Mali, French, English, if not even in the local languages; bambara, Fulani, Songhay… »

UNESCO estimates at 300,000, the number of manuscripts exfiltrated during the occupation of the city of Timbuktu by the terrorists in 2012.

According to the Executive President of SAVAMA DCI, the restored manuscripts will go back to their original library when security conditions are met.

Augustin K. Fodou
PARTAGER