Journey to Timbuktu

4 November 2011

In January, during Mali’s driest season, seven UCT staff members, three colleagues from the University of the Western Cape, and two representatives of the Ford Foundation, arrived in the fabled city of Timbuktu. The week-long visit was organised by the Tombouctou Manuscripts (Mss) Project, led by Associate Professor Shamil Jeppie, senior researcher at the Institute for the Humanities in Africa (HUMA). Since 2002, the project has been working with various aspects of the manuscript tradition of Mali, including research, translation and digitisation of the historical documents. Dr Marilet Sienaert of the research office penned this report.

History, Heritage, Identity: Arabic manuscripts in Cape Muslim Families

22 August 2011

In Muslim households scattered across the greater Cape Town area, sequestered in boxes, cupboards and trunks, there are handwritten books dating back as early as the late eighteenth century. These documents, often aged and dusty, with brittle, yellowing pages, are covered in a script not commonly linked with the “early Cape” – the Arabic script. They were penned by students, schoolmasters, practitioners of mysticism and others in the Muslim community during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and have been handed down and preserved through the generations of Cape Muslim families. These manuscripts are locally referred to as kietaabs, which derives from the Arabic word ‘kitāb’ meaning ‘book’, and are tangible remnants of an active Arabic-based writing culture in Cape Town that lasted until the early twentieth century.

Calligraphic Africa: A Personal Perspective

15 June 2011

This Tombouctou series, entitled “Calligraphic Africa”, featured an interesting range of conversations.  The most common thread amongst the various talks probably being books.  When I asked Shamil Jeppie about the lecture series he said this was to inform some research he was doing on the book.  What did it mean to me? 

A Mozambican Researcher at the Cape: My experience at UCT

1 June 2011

As a team member of the Northern Mozambique Arabic Manuscript Project at University Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique, I was invited to visit the University of Cape Town through a scholarship sponsored by the Tombouctou Manuscript Project at UCT, to fill an academic program including seminars, methodological classes and English classes during six weeks.