12 January 2012


Shamil Jeppie

Prof Shamil Jeppie
University of Cape Town, South Africa

Ahmad Bul'araf's archival work in Timbuktu: innovation and tradition?

The presentation will offer a brief and broad introduction to Timbuktu and its manuscript collections in particular. The city has a long history of scholarship with many eminent scholars, e.g. Ahmad Baba in the 16th century, coming from the town and leaving traces of their scholarly activity there. The recent emergence of intensive activities to conserve the collections in and around the town is worthy of attention. This engagement in heritage needs to be studied. Was there an earlier tradition of collecting and archiving? To address this question, the presentation turns to the work of Ahmad Bul‘araf (d. 1955). Ahmad Bul‘araf was a merchant who engaged in an extensive self-financed project to copy local manuscripts as a means to conserve them. He promoted the handwritten word in this way, i.e. he promoted attention to the manuscript tradition. But he also appears to have welcomed the arrival of the age of print to the region. This fascinating figure is the focus of Prof. Jeppie’s current research.