Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The Making of the Cake

Today was Swedish National Day: lots of flags fluttering cheerfully in the summer  breeze in idyllic Torekov where I am spending my last days in Sweden before flying back to Mali on Sunday.
 I am working non stop  trying to finalize my re-submission of the  proposal to the British Library for the new manuscript project with the three libraries  in Timbuktu who asked me to help them. London is  proving quite difficult this time around, although I think they do want to do it. They are just quite embarrassed about the fact that I am not an Arabist and a scholar in this field I think, and they wish I were someone else 'more suitable' doing the job, rather than an ex inn-keeper. It would  look better on paper. The fact is that knowledge of Arabic is not really necessary to be the project manager for this, and in any case noone else has had the idea and presented themselves...

 Emails are flying backwards and forwards across the ether between me in Torekov, the powers that be in the British Library in London and Father Columba, the Benedictine friar in Minnesota whose institution the Hills Museum and Manuscript Library will be the largest sponsor of the project.
It is like putting the ingredients into a complicated and difficult cake mixture: will it rise? Well, yes, it looks like it will, with or without London:  Fr. Columba has assured me they will go ahead, and beginning August. There was one important proviso still missing  though,  without which nothing could happen: the go-ahead from UNESCO and the MINUSMA (the UN forces in Mali) in Bamako. They have to endorse the project and it is they that have to arrange the flights and the transport of  material to Timbuktu with the UN flights. And yesterday I received a message of blessing from Hervé the UNESCO boss in Bamako:  the most important ingredient has  now been added to this cake mixture!

Therefore, it looks as if my withdrawal from Mali will be done in a much gentler way than I was fearing: I am writing into the project that I will return every three months to Mali to oversee progress of the work in Timbuktu. At that time I will also be able to pop into Djenné and check the  work which is still happening at the Library there where our Malian manuscript expert Saadou is working on a catalogue of the Djenne Manuscript Library's collection. The hotel will be closed but I still have my land where the studio and my house stands. And otherwise there is always the Campement Hotel...
 Perhaps the MaliMali studio could  still be up and running? I am able to take 43 kg back to London every three months: that is a lot of fabric and clothes with free transport to Europe. Perhaps I can sell it in London?
I will meet Elisabet and Henri the documentary film makers again in Bamako. They are hoping to catch my closing of the hotel and the wrapping up of my Malian life.Here they are in Bollnas, Sweden a week ago, where they were filming me and my mother. I am still quite mystified about why...
We will travel to Djenné on the local bus together Thursday week. That should keep Henri the cameraman happy filming all day...


Blogger David said...

I was going to wish you happy Swedish national day; now I do so posthumously. All sounds good and impressive about the research - is this the first you've told us about the Minnesota Father? He sounds worth a post in himself. And of course a doughty administrator is worth ten Arabists. Wishing you all success, and love as ever.

9:21 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Thank you dearest!
There will be plenty more about 'my' Minnesota Benedictine,Fr Columba, I hope. Meanwhile, he is mentioned on the post 21 December, 2015: "Back in the Saddle"and he is visible lower right in the picture of our dining table in the hotel garden under the stars. It is bittersweet to see this post:
those days were some of the last happy days with Keita...

10:10 AM  
Blogger mary said...

Well, you certainly have the right connections! Your Benedictine Friar seems to be offering a perfect scenario for the forthcoming years both for the manuscripts and your links to Djenne. And very pleased to think that MaliMali will continue. We look forward to more updates. Mary

6:58 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Indeed Mary. God Bless the Minnesota Benedictines. And I will do everything to keep the studio going in Djenné...

9:02 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

I love your "cake day." And am very glad, too, to know your "withdrawal from Mali will be gentler than you had feared. Have a safe journey to Mali, and I look forward to your further reports.

11:22 PM  
Blogger Pascal et Monique said...

Tu étais un peu comme un des derniers fils qui nous rattachait au Mali... Ton départ de Djenne nous attriste beaucoup. Nous continuerons à suivre les avancées des projets Libraries de Djenne et Tombouctou que tu défends avec tant d'ardeur et de réussite. Et longue vie au studio Mali Mali...
Pour ce qui est des manuscrits de Tombouctou, tu sais qu'ils ont été scannés à Lyon! Peut être que tes activités de sauvetage t'amèneront un jour à nouveau vers nous. Tu sais que tu es attendue!
Bon courage pour ces journées au Mali !
Monique et Pascal

12:14 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Bonjour Pascal et Monique (and hello Susan, thank you for looking in!)Oui, je sais que Lyon a fait du travail de numérisation a Tombouctou dans le temps, j'ai meme rencontré quelqu'un qui s'occupait de cela- mais je pense qu'ils ont eu de problèmes à convaincre les bibliothéques à participer- c'était avant la destruction des manuscripts par les Jihadistes je pense. Maintenant tout le monde est d'accord pour faire la numérisation.
je reviens un jour a Lyon, inchallah...

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