Thursday, February 06, 2014

Then there was Eva Brozowsky, a Manuscript Conservator  from the University of Hamburg who came and shared her considerable knowledge at the Manuscript Library. She also managed to tap into Yelfa’s treasure trove of knowledge concerning plants and natural dyes for ink making- a knowledge I had not realized he possessed. Djenné has been celebrated in the past for the excellence of her inks, and it is said that the scribes of Timbuktu travelled here in order to buy supplies.  This was something that interested Eva, just as it has fascinated me. The making of inks from natural materials surrounding us, using the same plants as Yelfa the Marabout uses for his magic talismans and his natural medicines seemed somehow poetic and mysterious to us: a Djenné alchemy...  
 We had a visionary morning in the Djenne Manuscript Library when we suddenly realized the simple reason why the Timbuktu scribes had bought their inks in Djenné: There is no vegetation in Timbuktu!!!!  However meagre, the vegetation of Djenné is lush and abundant in comparison. All the inks are made by plants here, that is to say, they were made by plants- now everyone is using imported Chinese inks... Eva is now sufficiently excited about this  to attempt to persuade the University of Hamburg to set up a research programme at the library here!


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