Jul 2, 2015
Thanks to our first 64 contributors enabling us to reach first milestone of 5,000€. Now we can move forward and reach next level of 10,000€ then 30,000€ !
Why 30,000€ ?
One of our actions : digitalization of the Timbuktu manuscripts at the Digital Lab of the University of Leuven started in May 2015
Creating digital copies is one of the best ways to preserve the fragile manuscripts of the Timbuktu libraries, which represent the literary heritage of Mali. Digitization enables sharing this valuable heritage to the world. In May 2015, the photographers of the Digital Laboratory of the University of Leuven started to digitize about 2000 pages of 16 manuscripts, which are currently stored in the library repository. Each folio is digitized on high resolution, allowing the digital copies to be studied and read in the greatest possible detail. In a few months, the Mama Haidara Library - which preserves a large collection of the Timbuktu Manuscripts - will receive the digital images of the 16 manuscripts to disseminate to scholars. The digital copies will be used for transcription and translation of the ancient African texts.
The international campaign to support the preservation, conservation and digitalization of Timbuktu Manuscript is ongoing, and everybody is invited to provide support through the crowdfunding project.
As we speak, 377,000 manuscripts from the ancient libraries of Timbuktu are kept in appalling conditions, suffering the damaging effects of humidity and insects. The centuries-old books were transferred from Timbuktu to Mali's capital Bamako in 2012, as the violent conflict in Northern Mali threatened their existence.
The quest for saving and preserving this invaluable piece of African and world heritage has touched a chord with many people. The FCAO, KU Leuven, BOZAR, are launching a variety of initiatives to safeguard and preserve these precious manuscripts, in collaboration with our partners in Mali.
As of today, everyone can get involved and contribute thanks to this crowdfunding initiative, which aims to raise a total of €30,000 for the urgent conservation, restoration and digitalization of the manuscripts in Mali.
Through this crowdfunding campaign, the FCOA, BOZAR and KU Leuven’s Library, with the support of the Goethe-institute, aim to raise international awareness around the need to save the Timbuktu libraries and provide financial support for a first set of conservation measures.
Your donation will be used to manufacture an individual preservation box (€20 per box) which is necessary to provide basic protection to the manuscripts. Secondly, the donations will be used to restore and digitalize a selection of 16 manuscripts which are currently preserved by the KU Leuven Library (Leuven’s Catholic University) in Belgium. The restored manuscripts will be displayed at a new exhibition in Leuven’s library, which will be closed by an international conference (see below for more information). We hope these events will help raise awareness about the Timbuktu manuscripts and the efforts and work that will be necessary to preserve them for the future.
The first goal of this campaign is to reach €5,000. This objective will then be upgraded to reach a total of €30,000, the necessary amount to restore and repair the selection of 16 manuscripts, and manufacture preservation boxes that will be used to store and conserve the manuscripts now located in Bamako. Designed to provide basic protection to the fragile documents, these preservation boxes are an essential tool to ensure the manuscripts do not deteriorate any further.
The full restoration, conservation, and digitalization of the whole collection of Timbuktu manuscripts will be a long-term effort. This crowdfunding campaign is only a first step, but it is an essential one.
What are the Timbuktu manuscripts and why are they under threat?
Over the last few weeks the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria has made the headlines. In recent years, another piece of UNESCO World Heritage was almost lost during the war in Mali: the Timbuktu manuscripts. These ancient documents are Africa’s written heritage and are priceless. The majority of these manuscripts, around 377,000 in total, were removed from the hands of Jihadist insurgents in 2012, thanks to a secret rescue operation. Under the direction of Mr. Abdel Kader Haidara a group of people responsible of 32 family libraries in Timbuktu managed to smuggle the manuscripts out of Timbuktu to the capital Bamako. While saved from the dangers of violent conflict and radical agenda's, the manuscripts now face new threats: the humid climate in Bamako and poor conservation facilities means that their condition is rapidly deteriorating.
Part of Africa’s literary heritage, this treasure reflects the extraordinary culture that emerged in Timbuktu centuries ago. Stopping their degradation is essential to enable the further study of these unique literary sources. Written in 12th and 13th century AD, the manuscripts are made of parchment, sheepskin, Middle-Eastern paper, scales or camel’s shoulder blades. They deal with various universal subjects such as astronomy, healthcare, literature, law, environment, economy, everyday life, religion, and even issues such as woman’s rights. Together, they impart humanist values and represent how culture and science flourished under a tolerant and open Islam.
Given the slow translation of the texts and their difficult accessibility, much of them still have to be fully understood and studied. Together they hold an enormous untapped scientific potential. The Timbuktu manuscripts have much to teach us, if they can be preserved for the future.
Below you can find more information on:
· The background of the campaign and upcoming events and exhibitions
· The use of funds
· The rewards and recognitions for pledges
· The different partners of this initiative
How did it start?
In a first effort to support the preservation of the Timbuktu manuscripts, the Fonds Culturel Arts & Ouvrages organized a charity auction of contemporary art works. This auction entitled “20 BUCKS A BOX” took place in Drouot art place in Paris on May 24, 2014. This was followed by a first exhibition of 16 original manuscripts, displayed in “Timbuktu Renaissance” exhibition at BOZAR in Brussels, Belgium. Both these initiatives and the extraordinary history of these manuscripts have touched the public, the media, and the broader cultural sector (see for example here and here). Following these events, many people asked what they could do to continue supporting the preservation of this precious piece of world heritage. This is why we decided to develop a crowdfunding campaign, as a first step to finance the most basic conservation needs the Timbuktu manuscripts now require.
What is Next? Rediscovering the manuscripts…
With the help of this crowdfunding campaign, the 16 manuscripts will be restored and displayed at KU Leuven’s exhibition “Books under fire: from the flames of Louvain to Timbuktu Renaissance” which will take place from July 4 to September 13, 2015 and will enable visitors to (re)discover Timbuktu manuscripts, along with relics of books from the Louvain’s Library that had been burnt in 1914. After the exhibition the manuscripts will be then returned to Mr. Abdel Kader Haidara, Director of Mamma Haidara’s Library and President of NGO named SAVAMA-DCI. Mr. Haidara will also speak about the manuscripts and their conservation at the international conference “What do we lose when we lose a library?” which will take place in Leuven from September 9 to 11, 2015. More information on this event can be found on the link below.
help, the crowdfunding campaign will be able to:
1. Finance SAVAMA-DCI’s preservation department in Bamako, Mali in charge of safeguarding 377,000 manuscripts. A first step in the process will be to put the manuscripts in individual acid-free preservation boxes. Further steps will include training and guidance for conservationists and archivists, and the digitalization of the manuscripts, enabling their preservation and their further study on a global scale.
2. Restore and digitalize 16 of the Timbuktu manuscripts by scientists from KU Leuven’s Library. These selected manuscripts, of which one is in a critical condition, will be displayed at the Exposition “Books Under Fire” (see above), before returning them to the collection in Bamako in September 2015. The restoration of this small sample of the Timbuktu manuscripts by expert conservator Lieve Watteeuw from the KU Leuven will allow them to develop conservation techniques in collaboration with SAVAMA-DCI, providing training and counseling for the preservation the collection in Bamako.
Each donation made from France is tax deductible up to 66% for individuals and 60% for corporations (according to French law).
Here is the list of rewards and recognitions:
- Your name in the exhibition “Books under the fire: from the flames of Louvain to Timbuktu Renaissance” from July 4 to September 13, 2015 in KU Leuven’s Library (Ladeuzeplein);
- Entrance tickets for this exhibition “Books under the fire: from the flames of Louvain to Timbuktu Renaissance”;
- Issues of art magazine “L’Estampille L’Objet d’Art”;
- Book entitled “The Manuscripts of Timbuktu” by Jean-Michel Djian;
- Numbered art photograph from Seydoux Camara, art photographer from Mali;
- Invitation to attend international conference about Libraries in danger from September 9 to 11, 2015 in Leuven, Belgium with privileged access to the restored manuscripts, to KU Leuven’s scientists and to Mr. Abdel Kader Haidara, Director of Mamma Haidara’s Library and President of NGO SAVAMA-DCI.
SAVAMA-DCI is an NGO founded by Mr. Abdel Kader Haidara, whose family has owned one of the Timbuktu libraries for centuries. SAVAMA-DCI was founded in 1996 and has since been involved in conservation, cataloging, research, education and training. Since the eruption of the conflict in Northern Mali, the role of SAVAMA-SCI in conserving the remaining manuscripts has become crucial.
Fonds Culturel Arts & Ouvrages (FCAO) is a French endowment fund (non-profit organization) based in Paris, France aiming to support cultural actions and preserve world heritage in danger. FCAO’s team is composed by volunteers that are passionate about culture and heritage who focus on local actions compromised by conflicts, environmental disasters and/or the failure to listen from the international community.
The Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium (BOZAR) organized an exhibition “Timbuktu Renaissance” which brought together 16 original manuscripts from the Mamma Haidara library in Timbuktu. The Exceptional story of the manuscripts has touched press and public alike. More than 16,000 visitors visited the installation which was on display in the Centre of Fine Arts, Brussels, from December 19, 2014 to March 5, 2015.
KU Leuven's Library is one of departments of the KU Leuven, Belgium. The library felt compelled to get involved in the preservation of Timbuktu libraries, as it faced destruction itself more than a century ago. On August 25, 1914, German troops set the Leuven University library on fire. As a result, the intellectual heritage that the University had built up over five centuries was lost for good. A hundred years after the destruction of the University library, KU Leuven and its sister University, the Université Catholique de Louvain, want to express their solidarity with the endangered libraries of Timbuktu. The KU Leuven University Library, the Faculty of Art, Illuminare, Research Centre for Medieval Art & the Faculty of Theology is doing so by raising awareness, organizing an exhibition (see below), and offering its expertise in order to help preserve the manuscripts.
This summer the general public can visit the exhibition “Books under fire: from the flames of Louvain to Timbuktu Renaissance” in Leuven’s University library in Ladeuzeplein (from July 7 to September 13, 2015, entrance price: €5). The presentation brings together pieces from the burnt down Leuven library from 1914 in combination with Timbuktu’s manuscripts. On the occasion of this exhibition Leuven experts will further examine and digitize the 16 manuscripts which BOZAR has put on display. The most badly damaged document is being studied in depth and restored.