What is at stake in Timbuktu?

Tragedy is due to divergence and because of lack of tolerance … Glory to he who creates greatness from difference and makes peace and reconciliation - Timbuktu manuscript entry by El Hadj Oumar Tall (1797 - 1864), a prominent Timbuktu scholar and leader.

A Cultural & Literary African Legacy

manuscriptsScholars from the 12th – 19th centuries used the written word extensively to guide leaders of multi-ethnic states spanning vast areas of Africa. Their writings in Arabic, influenced by traditional African thought and Islamic faith, are especially relevant today for their treaties on tolerance and peaceful means to resolve conflicts.

At its height the University of Timbuktu enrolled 25,000 students and spanned many cities, 180 Qur’anic schools, and ambulant camps in the desert. Conserving and reviving this African cultural legacy will dispel myths of an illiterate past and reestablish Timbuktu as an important African Intellectual and commercial center.

Endangered Peoples & Manuscripts

manuscriptsIn and around Timbuktu, Mali, hundreds of thousands of peoples – notably Tamashek (Tuareg), Songhay, Fulani, and Moor - are impoverished due to geo-political factors, recurrent drought and recent civil conflicts. Their cultural heritage is recorded in over 700,000 manuscripts yet they are also endangered due to poor storage conditions and theft.

Those best qualified to retain and revive this great legacy are a diminishing number of traditional scholars who still understand the manuscripts, their context, and contemporary applications.