Monday, October 12, 2009


The British Library pilot project for the Djenne Manuscripts is just about half way through the 4 months period allocated. Things are progressing without too much involvement on my behalf. Well, for one thing, I don't read Arabic... I turn up now and then and check the progress, asking questions such as: anything interesting today? Yet more magic?
That is because Samba, the Timbuktu archivist, tells me that 80% of the Djenné manuscripts deal with Maraboutage- or the subject of Magic. That is a lot more than the Timbuktu manuscripts, which tend to be more purely Islamic, i.e containing poetry devoted to the Prophet, transcripts of the Koran etc. The Djenné manuscripts tell you how to put spells on people.
Here I am with M. Maiga, the Kintigi (neighbourhood chief) of Kanafia, a district of Djenné. He has let us in to his house where he has big trunks full of ancient manuscripts, which we have just begun to look at today. He is very suspicious of us, and wonder why we want to look at these papers. We tell him we just want to look at them and count them at the moment. This is very suspicious to M. Maiga, who thinks we must have an ulterior motive. Why would we just want to look at the papers and count them?
This reminds me of Mungo Park and his problems in telling people that he had arrived just to find out whether the Niger river flowed towards the east or the west. Why on earth would anyone want to risk their life to find out something as useless as that? There must be another reason behind it, non?
The Djenné population did perhaps have some foundation to suspect the French colonial administration of wanting to relieve them of their manuscripts. They therefore built secret rooms and walled in some of their manuscripts to save them from the French, and perhaps even from the Moroccans earlier on. Who knows, perhaps we will be shown some of these secret rooms? At the moment it feels as if we are seeing the tip of an ice berg....

6 Comments:

Blogger David said...

More for the anthropologists...in the meantime, look across for pic of your Malian Barack and Michelle fabric serving as temporary curtain (I know you can't download pix from here so this is the best way to tell you).

Dxx

11:55 AM  
Blogger paula said...

Dear Sophie! hope all the mud-times have gone with the water, and so this water is helping to clear the air.

Im Paula (the Colombian girl who went with her couple from Spain and with the other couple Spain-France). Writting you from Barcelona, from the office and while I read your blog it remains me that another world does exist.

Here (in Zara) things are more muded than in your previous posts, and im planning to go back to Colombia for a while. The land of Gabriel Garcia Marquez is calling me. Anyway, we wnat to send you a little something, so please give me an adress where I can make you arrive that something!

Un abrazo grande

Paula and Tomas

2:58 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Hello David,
first of all thank you for letting me stay! big kiss and to Jeremiah too.
But about your message, I am not sure I understand; I looked in on your blogand didn't find anything?
xxxSophie
For Paula
will write in a couple of hoursz -must rush just now
xxSophie

7:56 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Ah, of course I remember you Paula, and the lovely evening we spent together with your Spanish friends here at the hotel, eating under the stars. I recall talking about our favourite Marquez passages...?
You want to send me something? How exciting!
the address is
Hotel djenne djenno
B.P. 40
Djenne
Mali
love to you and Tomas
xxxSophie

9:06 PM  
Blogger David said...

Dahling - the curtain is at the end of the 'Obama, Nobel, Lincoln, Copland' piece (second down).

And now everyone will know you were in London...

Dxx

8:00 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Oh I see! xxS

10:05 PM  

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