Aminatta Forna tells the story of legendary Timbuktu and its long hidden legacy of hundreds of thousands of ancient manuscripts. With its university founded around the same time as Oxford, Timbuktu is proof that the reading and writing of books have long been as important to Africans as to Europeans.
The books that are being found in and around Timbuktu are amongst some of the most important on earth and Universities from Oslo to Chicago and South Africa are busy documenting, archiving and translating the Arabic into English. This complicated and laborious mammoth project will certainly take several decades to shed more light on the true importance of these newly rediscovered West African Academic Islamic manuscripts but the truth is that West Africa has a far rich history of academic thought, which clearly dates back centuries.
Libraries of Timbuktu | http://www.sum.uio.no/timbuktu/index.html
This extensive web site includes links to the individual participating libraries and collections; a bibliography of Timbuktu; related institutions and resources; and an archive of press coverage (some links are no longer live).
The Timbuktu Manuscripts Project was initiated through a collaboration between Norwegian Universities (NUFU), the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu (IHERIAB), and the National Research Council of Mali (CNRST). Through a grant from NORAD and the Ford Foundation, the project was launched in the year 2000. The Timbuktu Manuscripts Project is the first UNESCO MEMORY of the WORLD Project and the first NEPAD Cultural Project.
West African Arabic Manuscripts Project (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
AMMS is a bi-lingual (English and Arabic) database that was developed at the University of Illinois in the late 1980s to describe a collection of Arabic manuscripts in southern Mauritania (Boutilimit). It subsequently has been used to catalogue seven other West African collections including the manuscript libraries at the Institut Mauritanien de Recherche Scientifique, Northwestern University, and the Centre Ahmad Baba in Timbuctu.
President Thabo Mbeki and the South Africa Government have played and are playing an important role in funding, preserving and cataloguing the works being uncovered. If knowledge is power then Timbuktu could light up a MegaCity.
Here is a YouTube version: