Understanding the social, economic and cultural dimensions of Africa’s Afar

In a follow up interview, Amandla’s Gwen Schulman tackles the social, economic and cultural dimensions of Africa’s Afar pastoralists living in the horn of Africa. She speaks to Ahmed Youssouf Mohamed, a Canadian of Afar origin and head of the foreign mission of the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization; and Joseph Magnet, Professor of Law at University of Ottawa, Legal Counsel for the Afar people and Legal Counsel for the Government of Afar State in Ethiopia.

Also listen to previous interview

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Amandla: Entrevue avec Salif Keïta à Radio-Okapi/ Interview with Salif Keïta at Radio-Okapi

Voici les thèmes qui ont été abordés pendant l’émission Amandla du 2 janvier 2008 sur les ondes de CKUT 90.3FM (Montréal). Vous pouvez la télécharger ici (lien valide pour deux mois seulement).

Salif KeitaL’émission du 2 janvier est un spécial en français.

Entrevue d’Alain Djaté de Radio-Okapi avec le chanteur malien Salif Keïta en septembre 2006 – Salif Keita (voir photo à gauche) parle de sa vie d’artiste, de politique…et de musique congolaise ainsi que de sa collaboration avec Papa Wemba (voir photo plus bas), grand chanteur congolais!

 

 

 

 

Cliquer ici pour entendre cette entrevue de 50 minutes… tout en musique!
Here are the subjects that were addressed in the January 2nd 2008 Amandla radio show on CKUT 90.3 FM (Montreal). You can download the show here (link valid for two months only).

The January 2nd show is totally in French.Papa Wemba

Interview done by Alain Djaté from Radio-Okapi, with Malian singer Salif Keïta in September 2006 – Salif Keïta (see picture above) talks about his life as an artist, about politics…and about Congolese music, specifically, his collaboration with Papa Wemba (see picture on the right) , a widely known Congolese singer.

Click here, to hear this musical interview of 50 minutes.

Amandla Radio Show: “Extraction!” Comix Reportage is out !/ 7ème rencontre africaine de la photographie à Bamako

Voici les thèmes qui ont été abordés pendant l’émission Amandla du 19 décembre 2007 sur les ondes de CKUT 90.3FM (Montréal). Vous pouvez la télécharger ici (lien valide pour deux mois seulement).

Partie anglaise.

Extraction!Critique d’une bande dessinée/reportage intitulée “Extraction!” (des éditions Cumulus Press) sur les conséquences des activités des entreprise minières et pétrolières canadiennes sur les communautés du Guatemala du Canada (Québec, Alberta) et d’Inde – Écoutez les commentaires de Gwen et Moussa ainsi que ceux de Tamara qui a personnellement participé à la réalisation de cet ouvrage. Cliquer ici pour entendre la chronique.

 

 

 

Partie française.

Afrique du Sud: Commentaires sur l’élection de Jacob Zuma à la tête de l’ANC– Élu avec deux tiers des voix, Jacob Zuma (voir photo à la fin du post) est-il une bonne ou une mauvaise nouvelle pour la démocratie sud-africaine?

Écouter les commentaires de Gwen et Moussa en cliquant ici.Malick Sidibé

Mali: Commentaires sur la 7ème rencontre africaine de la photographie à Bamako – Cette nouvelle édition rend hommage au photographe Malick Sidibé (voir photo à droite). Écouter les commentaires de Moussa en cliquant ici.

Les photos de Malick Sidibé peuvent être vues sur les sites suivants:

www.photosapiens.com/Le-rituel-de-la-pose.html.

http://www.holott.org/malicksidibe/msidibe/.

Here are the subjects that were addressed in the December 19th Amandla radio show on CKUT 90.3 FM (Montreal). You can download the show here (link valid for two months only).

English part.

Review of the Graphic novel/reportage, entitled “Extraction!”Listen to this topic Extraction (edited by Cumulus Press). It addresses the issue of the consequences of Canadian mining and oil companies’ activities on the communities from Guatemala, Canada (Quebec, Alberta) and India. Listen to the comments by Gwen and Moussa, and especially by Tamara who was personally involved in the realization of this book. Click here to hear the review.

French part.

Jacob ZumaSouth-Africa: Comments on Jacob Zuma’s election for the presidency of the ANC – Elected with two-third of the voices, is Jacob Zuma (see picture, left) good or bad news for south african democracy? Hear the comments by Gwen and Moussa by clicking here.

Mali: Comments on the 7th African photography meeting of Bamako – This new edition pays tribute to Malian photographer, Malick Sidibé (see picture above). Listen to comments by Moussa by clicking here.

Malick Sidibé’s photos can be seen on the following websites:

www.photosapiens.com/Le-rituel-de-la-pose.html.

http://www.holott.org/malicksidibe/msidibe/.

 

Jacob Zuma‘s election on video

La vidéo suivante illustre la joie des membres de l’ANC lorsque Zuma est déclaré vainqueur. Noter, à la fin du vidéo, Thabo Mbeki qui lui donne l’accolade pour le féliciter.

The following video show the joy of the ANC members when the hear the name of Zume, declared the winner of the election. Note, at the end of the video, Thabo Mbecki, congratulating Zuma for his victory:

 

 

Doug au Malawi/ Doug in Malawi

(Link in english/ lien en anglais)

Our dear contributor to the Amandla radio show and to this blog (read his analysis on Malawi), Doug Miller, is actually in Malawi (or about to arrive there) with some students from Montreal’s Vanier College. They will spent time in Makupo, Malawi, where they will meet Malawians and share cultures.

Doug:

In August 2007, the people to people support of friends in Canada led to the sinking of a well and the burden of village labour has shifted dramatically. Now Makupo can host a visit from 9 Canadians representing all the glorious mix that makes up Canada.
The Malawians in the village share a long history with a common place, while the Canadians have histories that involve new homes and building new links. It is an interesting stew and I am looking forward to seeing how it cooks into a tasty dish.

This is from Doug’s blog. Yes, Doug started a blog related to this Malawian odyssey and we invite you to take a look: http://makupo.blogspot.com/

Notre cher ami et collaborateur à l’émission de radio Amandla ainsi qu’à ce blog (lire son analyse sur le Malawi ici), Doug Miller, est présentement au Malawi (ou à la veille d’y mettre le pied) avec des étudiants du Collège Vanier de Montréal. Ensemble, ils vont passer du temps à Makupo, Malawi, où ils vivront une expérience de partage des cultures. Visitez son blog: http://makupo.blogspot.com/

Émission Amandla du 8 août 2007/ Amandla show from August 8th 2007

Voici les thèmes qui ont été abordés pendant l’émission Amandla du 8 août 2007 sur les ondes de CKUT 90.3FM (Montréal). Vous pouvez la télécharger ici (lien valide pour deux mois seulement).

Émission en anglais.

Alfie Roberts publicationCélébrations du 169ème anniversaire de l’Émancipation à Montréal. Le 1er août dernier, des célébrations se sont tenues dans la Petite Bourgogne (Montréal) pour marquer le 169ème anniversaire de la libération des Noirs de l’esclavage dans les colonies britanniques. L’événement a été animé par “l’Universal Negro Improvement Association of Montreal”, la plus vieille communauté noire de Montréal, ainsi que par l’Institut Alfie Roberts et Umoja Concordia. Musique, lecture, discussions et poésie ont marqué les célébrations tout en donnant un hommage à Alfie Roberts, un visionnaire et activiste de la communauté noire de Montréal. Le reportage peut être téléchargé ici (en anglais).

L’aide du Royaume-Uni à l’Afrique en baisse. L’aide britannique à l’Afrique, malgré toutes les promesses, a chuté de 1% entre 2005 et 2006. Commentaires de Doug.

Politique namibienne et la bande de Caprivi. Commentaires sur la lutte du mouvement pour l’indépendance de la bande de Caprivi menée par la Caprivi Liberation Army. Des membres de ce mouvement ont été condamnés à 32 ans de prison par le gouvernement namibien.

Here are the subjects that were addressed in the August 8th 2007 Amandla radio show on CKUT 90.3 FM (Montreal). You can download the show here (link valid for two months only).

Show in english.

169 th Emancipation Day Celebrations in Montreal. On august 1st, people gathered in Montreal’s Little Burghundy neighbourhood to celebrate emancipation day and mark 169 years of black African freedom from bondage in the British colonies. The Montreal event was hosted by the Universal Negro Improvement Association of Montreal, one of Montreal’s oldest Black community, as well as the Alfie Roberts InstituteUmoja Concordia. with music, readings, talks and poetry, it marked emancipation day while paying tribute to the late Alfie Roberts, a visionary Montreal Black community activist. The reportage can also be downloaded here.Caprivi strip and

UK’s aid in Africa dropping. Despite the promises, the UK’s aid dropped 1% from 2005 to 2006. Comments by Doug.

Namibian politics and the Caprivi strip. The fight of the people from the Caprivi strip (Caprivi Liberation Army) against Namibia. Today, fighters from Caprivi were sentenced to 32 years in jail by the Namibian government. Comments by Doug.

Le salon international du livre du Zimbabwe/ Zimbabwe International Book Fair

Zim Book fair(Liens en anglais/ links in english)

Le salon international du livre du Zimbabwe vient de se terminer Samedi. Cet événement annuel existe depuis 1984 et a été considéré comme le plus grand salon du livre du continent africain. En l’an 2000, l’Association pour le développement de l’éducation en Afrique confirmait qu’il était le plus grand d’Afrique. La version 2007 du salon n’est malheureusement plus que l’ombre de ce qu’elle fut comme le présente cet article du Miami Herald (plus bas en anglais).

The Zimbabwe International Book Fair ended this Saturday. This yearly fair, which started in 1984, was the biggest book fair in Africa. The Association for the Developement of Education in Africa confirmed it in its 2000 Newsletter:

The Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF) is Africa’s publishing showcase, the largest and most diverse exhibition of books, magazines and journals in Africa. In addition to being a market place, it embraces a varied program of seminars, workshops and round tables on different aspects of book development.

Despite the political and economical situations in the country, this book fair has managed to keep its activities going. But the Miami Herald tells us that the 2007 edition of the fair is just a shadow of what it used to be in the past:

Zimbabwe book fair a shadow of past days

By ANGUS SHAW
Associated Press Writer

HARARE, Zimbabwe —
The Zimbabwe International Book Fair once attracted agents, publishers and authors from around the world.

This year, amid the country’s deepening economic and political crisis, the fair was a shadow of its former self. The only foreign exhibitor at the event, which ended Saturday, was the embassy of Iran – offering Islamic tracts and political brochures.

“What is amazing is that this fair happens at all,” said Kudzi Kaparadza, a high-school teacher visiting from Bromley, 25 miles east of Harare.

Zimbabwe is facing acute shortages of gas, food and most basic commodities in its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980. Inflation is officially at 4,500 percent, the highest in the world. Scores of businesses have closed down and state health and education services are short of supplies, with up to 10 children sharing one textbook.

To stifle potential political unrest, longtime ruler President Robert Mugabe has clamped down on opposition movements and asserted increasing control over media and communications.

After the inaugural fair in 1984, Harare attracted hundreds of agents, publishers and literary figures from Europe, the United States, Asia, Australia and within Africa. But there is little incentive for foreign publishers to attend now – after all, few Zimbabweans can afford books.

This year’s fair featured just 84 exhibitors – mostly local publishers, booksellers, church groups and aid and human rights organizations.

“Whether we are still an international book fair is a vexing question,” said Greenfield Chilongo, executive director of the independent nonprofit association of organizers.

This time around, writers and academics came from Kenya and nations around the region for workshops, discussion groups and poetry and theater readings, he said. But bright souvenir T-shirts with the fair’s symbol were not produced, and the coffee bar no longer resembled a literary cafe.

“Like everybody, we have had our budget constraints. We have done our best to survive and our participants and supporters want to see it continue,” Chilongo said.

Maverick former politician, guerrilla leader and a ruling party founder Edgar Tekere arrived a few hours before the closing of the five-day event to sign copies of his autobiography, “A Life of Struggle.”

He said he had to “scrounge” for gasoline in his home city of Mutare on the eastern border with Mozambique to reach the fair.

Officials with a free-speech lobby group said some visitors, evidently supporters of sweeping media laws passed by the ruling party in 2003, were openly hostile over the group’s exhibit of literature and fliers on media repression, arrests of independent journalists and pro-Mugabe propaganda in the dominant state-controlled media.

In addition to controlling print and broadcast media, the government is now intent on monitoring the Internet. The official Herald newspaper reported Saturday that Mugabe had approved a new law giving authorities power to monitor and intercept communications on the Internet as well as fixed and mobile telephones.

There were no violent incidents at the fair. There have been scuffles over past controversial exhibits and the government one year banned a display of literature by gays and lesbians after Mugabe described same-sex partners as “lower than pigs and dogs.” Ruling-party militants trashed the display.

GALZ, the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, had a stand this year that displayed only a sign and a logo.

Just 500 people passed through the gates in the central Harare park on the first day the fair was open to the public, compared with thousands in previous years.

“I guess people are preoccupied out there searching for food and necessities,” said Kaparadza, the high school teacher. “All the same, I’m inspired by the hard work of the brave, committed people who put this fair together against everything that’s going on.”

Émission Amandla du 18 juillet 2007/ Amandla show from July 18th 2007

Voici les thèmes qui ont été abordés pendant l’émission Amandla du 18 juillet dernier sur les ondes de CKUT 90.3FM (Montréal). Vous pouvez la télécharger ici (lien valide pour deux mois seulement).

Émission entièrement en anglais

L’artiste zimbabwéenne Stella Chiweshe (voir photo plus bas) vient à Montréal pour donner un spectacle dans le cadre du festival Nuits d’Afrique. Elle est la première femme du Zimbabwe à diriger son propre groupe et elle joue le mbira (aussi connu sous le nom de kalimba). Nous vous présentons une entrevue qu’elle a donnée à un membre de notre équipe d’Amandla. Sa présence au Festival Nuits d’Afrique à été couvert par le journal “Le Devoir“.

The Ravaging of Africa: Coporate Plunder. Rediffusion d’une émission radio en quatre parties qui traite des impacts destructeurs de l’impérialisme américain en Afrique. “Corporate Plunderdétaille les effets désastreux de la présence de Royal Dutch Shell au Nigeria et ceux de la canadienne Tiomin Resources au Kenya. On souligne aussi les façons dont les entreprises occidentales réussissent à ne payer aucunes taxes en Afrique. Avec Ifieniya Lott, Mwana Siti B. Juma, Charles Abugre and John Christensen.

Here are the subjects that were addressed in the July 18th Amandla radio show on CKUT 90.3 FM (Montreal). You can download the show here (link valid for two months only).

Show entirely in english Stella Chiweshe

The Zimbabwean artists, Stella Chiweshe (see picture), comes in Montreal to perform at the “Festival Nuits d’Afrique” . She’s the first woman in Zimbabwe to lead her own group and she plays the mbira (also known as kalimba). We air an interview she gave to one of our Amandla crew member. Her presence at the Festival Nuit d’Afrique was alos covered by “Le Devoir” (in french).

The Ravaging of Africa: Corporate Plunder. It is a four-part radio documentary series about the destructive impact of U.S. imperialism on Africa. “Corporate Plunder” details the disastrous effects of Royal Dutch Shell’s operations in Nigeria and those of Canada’s Tiomin Resources in Kenya. Also highlighted is the massive tax looting of Africa by Western corporations. With Ifieniya Lott, Mwana Siti B. Juma, Charles Abugre and John Christensen.

Voici une petite video d’un spectacle donné par Stella Chiweshe en 2006. Here is a video showing a performance by Stella Chiweshe in 2006:

Émission Amandla du 11 juillet 2007/ Amandla show from July 11th 2007

Voici les thèmes qui ont été abordés pendant l’émission Amandla du 11 juillet dernier sur les ondes de CKUT 90.3FM (Montréal). Vous pouvez la télécharger ici (lien valide pour deux mois seulement).

Commentaires sur le film: “God grew tired of us” – en anglais. Documentaire sur les garçons perdus du Sud-Soudan qui lutte pour leur survie dans les camps de réfugiés d’Éthiopie et du nord du Kenya. (voir poster promotionnel plus bas)

The Ravaging of Africa: Economic War – en anglais. Rediffusion d’une émission radio en quatre parties qui traite des impacts destructeurs de l’impérialisme américain en Afrique. Economic Warprésente sur la destruction des économies et des sociétés de Guinée, Zambie, Kenya et d’Afrique du Sud par les politiques de la Banque Mondiale et du F.M.I. AvecAlbum Coup de Gueule Bakary Fofana, Sara Longwe, Caroline Adhiambo, Njuki Githethwa et Molefe Pilane

Interview avec Tiken Jah Fakoly dans le cadre du festival Nuits d’Afrique de Montréal – en français. (Ci-contre: album “Coup de Gueule” de Tiken Jah). Plus bas, on vous présente une vidéo live de sa chanson très populaire: “Plus rien ne m’étonne”.

Here are the subjects that were addressed in the July 11th Amandla radio show on CKUT 90.3 FM (Montreal). You can download the show here (link valid for two God Grew tired of usmonths only).

Comments on the movie: “God grew tired of us” – in english. A documentary on the lost boys of South Sudan struggling while living in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Northern Kenya. Story of their odyssey through Africa. (See promotional picture on right)

The Ravaging of Africa: Economic War – in english. It is four-part radio documentary series about the destructive impact of U.S. imperialism on Africa. “Economic War” focuses on the World Bank’s and IMF’s decimation of the economies and social sectors of Guinea, Zambia, Kenya and South Africa. With Bakary Fofana, Sara Longwe, Caroline Adhiambo, Njuki Githethwa and Molefe Pilane

Interview with Tiken Jah Fakoly – in english. He was present at the “Festival Nuits d’Afrique” de Montréal – in french. (Up: “Coup de Gueule” album from Tiken Jah). We show you here a live performance of Tiken Jah while he sings: “Plus rien ne m’étonne”, one of his most popular song.

Émission Amandla du 4 juillet 2007/ Amandla show from July 4th 2007

Voici les thèmes qui ont été abordés pendant l’émission Amandla du 4 juillet dernier sur les ondes de CKUT 90.3FM (Montréal). Vous pouvez la télécharger ici (lien valide pour deux mois seulement).

Émission en anglais

Enjeux sociaux liés au SIDA au Botswana. Ces enjeux sont très liés à la situation du droit des femmes qui sont les personnes les plus affectées par le SIDA. Des ONG locales de femmes sont impliquées dans l’éducation et la dissémination de l’information sur le VIH/SIDA au sein de la population.Seun Kuti

Commentaires sur la performance du Seun Kuti (fils de Fela Kuti) au festival International de Jazz de Montréal. Voir photo ci-contre et un extrait vidéo de son spectacle plus bas.

The Ravaging of Africa: Militarizing Africa. Rediffusion d’une émission radio en quatre parties qui traite des impacts destructeurs de l’impérialisme américain en Afrique. “Militarizing Africa” décrit comment les États-Unis ont fomentés la guerre qui a dévasté la République Démocratique du Congo et planifié l’invasion de la Somalie par l’Éthiopie. Avec Mfuni Kazadi, Millicent Okumu, Farah Maalim et Halima Abdi Arush

 

Here are the subjects that were addressed in the July 4th Amandla radio show on CKUT 90.3 FM (Montreal). You can download the show here (link valid for two months only).

Show in english.

Social issues related to HIV/AIDS in Botswana. They are closely linked to women rights since they are the most affected by AIDS. Women oriented NGOs are involved in education and dissemination of information on HIV/AIDS in the population.

Comments on Seun Kuti (Fela Kuti‘s son), performance at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Here is a small piece of Kuti’s performance in Montreal:

The Ravaging of Africa: Militarizing Africa. It is four-part radio documentary series about the destructive impact of U.S. imperialism on Africa. “Militarizing Africa” describes how the United States has fomented the devastating war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as taken part in and engineered the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. With Mfuni Kazadi, Millicent Okumu, Farah Maalim and Halima Abdi Arush.


Tombouctou, ville fabuleuse/ Timbuktu, the legendary city

(Lien en anglais/ Link in english)

Puisque la ville de Tombouctou, au Mali, est candidate pour devenir l’une des sept nouvelles merveilles du monde, nous vous présentons un article du Guardian de Londres qui décrit la richesse culturelle que la ville recèle (voir article plus bas):

Since Timbuktu, in Mali, is a candidate city to become one of the new seven wonders of the world, we present an article about that city from the London Guardian:

In fabled city at the end of the earth, a treasury of ancient manuscripts

In Timbuktu the race is on to preserve papers that document a west African golden age

A hot wind stirred up the desert sand. Fida ag Muhammad, a wispy man with a blue-grey turban, hurried across the street. Reaching a mud-brick building, he quickly unlocked its corrugated iron door and pushed it open. A beam of soft early-morning light pierced the darkness. On a metal table covered with a red bath towel sat half a dozen leather-bound manuscripts. Carefully untying the string around a small weathered pouch, Mr Muhammad pulled back its flaps to reveal a sheaf of yellowed papers. Their edges had crumbled away, but the neat Arabic calligraphy was still clear.

“A Qur’an,” he said. “From the 1300s.”

For an outsider, such a remarkable find might seem extraordinary. In Timbuktu and its surrounding villages like Ber, where Mr Muhammad lives, it is commonplace. After centuries of storage in wooden trunks, caves or boxes hidden beneath the sand, tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts, covering topics as diverse as astronomy, poetry, music, medicine and women’s rights, are surfacing across the legendary Malian city.

Their emergence has caused a stir among academics and researchers, who say they represent some of the earliest examples of written history in sub-Saharan Africa and are a window into a golden age of scholarship in west Africa. Some even believe that the fragile papers, which are now the focus of an African-led preservation effort, may reshape perceptions of the continent’s past.

“It has long been said that there was only oral history in this part of the world,” said Salem Ould Elhadje, 67, a historian in Timbuktu. “But these manuscripts come from an African city, a city of black people.”

The Timbuktu of myth is a place at the end of the earth. In reality its location was the key to its development nearly a thousand years ago. With the Sahara directly north and the Niger river south, it was established as a rest stop for travellers and a trading post for gold and salt. By the late 1500s, however, when it formed part of the powerful Songhai empire, it had become known as a centre of great learning.

Books became hugely prized. Travellers from as far as the Middle East brought manuscripts to Timbuktu to sell. Using paper manufactured in Europe, scholars in the town produced their own original work, which was then copied by their pupils. Commercial transactions were recorded – slaves and ostrich feathers were among the goods traded – as were the pronouncements of learned men on everything from the environment to polygamy and witchcraft.

“Every manuscript contains surprises,” said Shahid Mathee, part of a University of Cape Town team studying the manuscripts. “We have even found texts where scholars offer advice on overcoming erection problems.”

Timbuktu’s decline began in 1591 with a Moroccan invasion. But the practice of writing, copying and storing manuscripts lived on here and in other west African cities such as Gao and Kano.

It was not until 1964, at a Unesco conference, that Timbuktu’s literary wealth was recognised. Still, it took a further 37 years for the campaign to document and preserve them to gain momentum.

On visiting Timbuktu in 2001, the South African president, Thabo Mbeki, was shown some of the manuscripts held at the Ahmed Baba Institute, named after the city’s most famous scholar, including a copy of Islamic law dating to 1204. Mr Mbeki was so impressed he declared them to be among the continent’s “most important cultural treasures” and pledged to set up a project to help properly conserve the manuscripts.

After centuries of exposure to the harsh desert climate, abrasive sands and hungry termites, many of the manuscripts are badly damaged. Even those intact, such as Mr Muhammad’s Qur’an, are so fragile the pages may disintegrate when handled. “Every minute, every second, part of a manuscript is being lost,” said Mahmud Muhammad Dadab, a scholar who compares their value to the works of Victor Hugo and William Shakespeare.

With South African money, a £3.5m home for the Ahmed Baba Institute, featuring a museum, archive and rooms for scholars, is being built in the heart of the city, and will open next year. Meanwhile workers are trying to safeguard the institute’s growing stock of 30,000 manuscripts.

In a large room with fans whirring overhead, a team is building made-to-measure cardboard boxes for every manuscript that will provide protection from the dust. Fragile pages are being carefully affixed to special Japanese paper to stop them crumbling.

Across the courtyard, researchers sit in front of computers documenting the contents of each manuscript. Then, with the help of computer scanners, ancient knowledge is uploaded into the 21st century. “We are creating a virtual library,” said Muhammad Diagayete, 37, a researcher who was busy documenting a 1670 text on astronomy written in blue, red and black ink. “We want people all over the world to be able to access these manuscripts online.”

Private collections are also being restored. Outside interest, and funding, has helped to create more than 20 libraries in Timbuktu, from tiny collections with a few hundred documents to Ismael Haidara’s Fondo Kati Bibliothèque, which has more than 7,000 leather-bound manuscripts dating back to 1198. Many were brought from Andalucia, Spain, by his ancestors, who came to Timbuktu in the 15th century.

A few doors down is the Mama Haidara library run by Abdel Kader Haidara, no relation to Ismael, the best-known curator in the city. With funding from US foundations, he is also digitizing his 9,000-document collection, and is building extra rooms for scholars and tourists, as well as an internet cafe.

Before opening the family library, he helped to build up the Ahmed Baba Institute’s collection, travelling all over the region by camel, canoe and car to try to persuade families to part with their manuscripts in exchange for livestock or printed books.

It was a difficult task. Though many families cannot read Arabic, the manuscripts are regarded as precious heirlooms that cannot be sold.

In Ber, a two-hour drive from Timbuktu, Fida ag Muhammad spoke of valuable caches of manuscripts buried in the desert by families fearful that outsiders would try to prise them away.

As a result, experts believe that hundreds of thousands of manuscripts remain in private homes across the region, and the quest to find and conserve them will go on for many years.

“We have to persuade people that they need to be protected and documented,” said Abdel Kader Haidara. “If we don’t read what our ancestors said, we cannot know who we really are.”

Vous n’avez jamais vu Tombouctou? Voici une petite vidéo, assez touristique, de la ville dans ses plus simples attraits, ceux de la vie quotidienne de ses habitants. On y voit, bien sûr, l’architecture typique de la ville, en articulier celle de la mosqué Sankoré. (vidéo de Judith Porter)

Never saw Timbuktu? Here is a small “touristic” video  showing the city and the daily life of its inhabitants. The typical architecture of the city can be seen, particularly the Sankoré Mosque. (video by Judith Porter)