The Sahara Today Workshop

12 October 2011

By Sabelo Mcinziba

On the 8th-9th of September, the Tombouctou Manuscripts Project hosted the Sahara Today workshop with scholars from North Africa, Europe and South Africa who are interested in the Sahara. The areas of interest covered by various scholars expanded from political, social, cultural, identity, historical and other pertinent questions in and around the Sahara and their impact in relation to the rest of Africa as well as the world. 

A history of the Sahara and its significance to the region and the continent’s trade was one the central discussions with the Tuareg pastoralism in the Sahara and the desertification of the Sahara several millennia ago leading up to great volumes of migration as well as adaptation of the Tuareg population who are the principal inhabitants of the Sahara interior today. 

Highlight to the transnationalism nature of the culture through artists from the region to far away parts of the world.  The FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup hosted in South Africa saw the performance of an internationally recognized Tuareg band: Tinariwen transporting the culture of the Tuareg to millions of people all over the world. This spectacle is said to have brought immense emotions through the North African community as it speaks to cultural integration amongst Africans and the world at large. 

Security is a major issue in the Sahara as the migration of people continues to take place as testified by history, but today, the movement of Africans from the Sahara and Africa generally to Europe is particularly difficult as Europe has strict and discriminatory policies regarding the immigration of Africans. Constant claims to Islam radicalism as a one of the leading reasons for the insecurity in the region (e.g. Nigeria) primarily and secondarily in Europe are made, justifying these discriminatory laws against Africans in general and Islamic North Africans especially.  

The event was highlighted by  a lecture by Larbi Sadiki who spoke about the political developments in North Africa largely characterized in popular media as the ‘Arab Awakening’ providing fresh insight and perspective to the very topical events in North Africa. The event was filled to capacity with people from all ages and extremely rich interaction with the audience to end off a very successful event. 

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