Friday, November 16, 2012

Yesterday I was grumpy again. Really grumpy for no sensible reason. It got worse at the manuscript library . Africans never throw anything away, so the whole place is littered with debris such as the old card board boxes in which the computers and all the other equipment arrived years ago. And now there are the boxes for the card making equipment. I had to step over one of these to get into the work room this morning. To have the place looking like a tip is not good for our image in my opinion, and there are plenty of journalists here now wanting to write about us. ‘ Garba, why don’t you just get rid of all this stuff? Just chuck it out!’ I snapped irritably. I already knew the answer: ‘But we might need it …' And then there is another old bone of contention: every now and again I check Mohammed’s descriptions of each manuscript we are digitizing. This is an Excel document in English for the BL in London. Sometimes the manuscripts are written in local languages but using Arabic script. This has to be noted of course. I want him to specify which language we are talking about: it might be Songhai, Bozo or Fulfulde (Fulani). When I find he has once more written 'local language’ instead, I have my habitual run-in with Garba and Yelfa who are the ones supplying the information to Mohammed. ‘Our teachers in Timbuktu told us always to write ‘local languages’' insists Yelfa. ‘OK, but this is Djenne’ , I object. ‘And in Djenne we can make different rules! Timbuktu is (was!?) not always right! The reason for this must be that those people that first came to study the manuscripts – the French and the Arabs etc thought that ‘local languages’ were of absolutely no value. But things have changed. I am afraid you are going to have to tell Mohammed which language this is!’ I insist, pointing at the manuscript in question which turns out to be written in Bozo, as Yelfa admits sulkingly. Oh dear. But apart from these rumblings of discontent, all is surprisingly well in Djenne. Those who may be looking at this journal in order to gain information about Mali may be disappointed. Of course there are war drums heard in the distance, but for now Djenne continues as normal, only everyone is much poorer..


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