13 April 2015
The Tombouctou Manuscripts Project was one of the sponsors and organisers of a three-day workshop themed: Muslim Ulama in the Intellectual History of the Wider Lake Chad Region. The workshop formed a part of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Oppenheimer Africa Project 2014 and was held at Monkey Valley Resort, Noordhoek in Cape Town, South Africa, during the period of 16 – 20 November 2014. Other sponsors and organisers included: the Centre for Contemporary Islam (Department of Religious Studies, UCT), Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (University of Hamburg) and the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust.
Scholars and graduate students with research and scholarship centred on the Lake Chad region—Chad, Northeast Nigeria and Northern Cameroon—presented papers on various topics in Arabic, English and French. In his welcoming speech, Andrea Brigaglia, a lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at UCT, highlighted the lack of in-depth scholarship on the region. Even as he acknowledged existing scholarship on the Hausa regions—mostly in northeast Nigeria—he stressed the need to advance research focussed on Chad and Cameroon. At the same time, Brigaglia also mentioned some of the reasons for the setback in scholarly works in this region: security issues (for example, the activities of Boko Haram), difficulty in accessing manuscripts in private and family collections as well as the abandonment of manuscripts in the possession of rulers, families and libraries.
The workshop culminated with suggested strategies highlighting the need for continuous research and collaboration of researchers with the Lake Chad region as its research focus.