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Monday, November 10, 2008


Pic: Baking bread in Timbuktu
(Photo credit: Lindsay Hooper for Iziko Museums of Cape Town)

Exhibition of manuscripts from the holdings of the Ahmed Baba Institute at Durban Art Gallery.

Timbuktu Script & Scholarship is an exhibition of manuscripts from the holdings of the Ahmed Baba Institute (IHERI-AB) in Timbuktu, Mali. The manuscripts are evidence of an African written and intellectual tradition dating back hundreds of years. Displaying several styles of fine Arabic calligraphy, the most beautiful examples have gold illumination and finely tooled leather covers.

The exhibition is a joint project between Iziko Museums of Cape Town and the Department of Arts and Culture. It is part of a larger Presidential Project involving South Africa and Mali on the preservation of the manuscripts and the construction of a new library in Timbuktu to house the collection of the Ahmed Baba Institute.

The aim of the exhibition is to reclaim the scholarship and written legacy of Africa. The manuscripts on display show a diversity of subject matter, ranging from religion and literature, to astronomy and mathematics, while also giving a sense of daily life as reflected in legal opinions and commercial transactions in Timbuktu.

The exhibition will present the manuscripts in the historical and cultural context of scholarship in West Africa. By celebrating the manuscripts as cultural treasures of Africa, the exhibition will promote the values and objectives of the African Renaissance, and the continuation of cultural ties between South Africa and the rest of the African continent.

Timbuktu Script & Scholarship is a travelling exhibition and its tour of the country ends in early December 2008. Funded by the national Department of Arts and Culture and supported by Standard Bank, the exhibition runs at the Durban Art Gallery from November 5 to 16, 2008, and is complemented by a catalogue.