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Literary evidence of Timbuktu’s written heritage

BBC News reports the reopening of a library in the centre of Timbuktu, the Ahmed Baba Institute, which will house and preserve thousands of ancient manuscripts that would otherwise have been destroyed by termites, mice, and rain.

These unique manuscripts, written mostly in Arabic script, reveal the legendary city’s overlooked intellectual history and status as a famous university town in the 1500s. They also “refute the notion that sub-Saharan Africa produced only oral histories, with little or no written records,” the BBC says.

From the article:

[…] this unique literary evidence is under threat, as time, the elements, and simple lack of resources take their toll in northern Mali.

“We are losing manuscripts every day. We lack the financial means to catalogue and protect them,” said Mr. Boularaf, who recently rescued his collection from the rubble of a mud building next door that collapsed after a rainstorm.

After several years of building and delays, the doors are finally about to open at the Ahmed Baba Institute’s new home — a 200 million rand (£16,428,265) project paid for by the South African government.

“It’s a dream come true,” said South African curator Alexio Motsi, exploring the underground, climate-controlled storage rooms that will soon house some 30,000 manuscripts.