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The Timbuktu Andalusian Library (Fondo Ka’ti)

Fondo Ka'ti Library Fondo Ka'ti Library

The Biblioteca Andalusi de Tombuctu, less elaborately referred to as the Fondo Ka’ti Library was officially opened on September 27 2003, with generous funding from the Spanish government because of the links of the Ka’ti family, the founders of the library, with Spain. The library was started by Ismael Diadié Haidara, descendent of Mahmud Ka’ti, the famous Timbuktu chronicler renowned for his Ta'rikh al-Fattash. Ismael claims that his paternal family descends from Roderique the Goth, the Christian ruler of Spain at the time of the arrival of the Arabs under the leadership of Tariq ibn Ziyad. The Christian rulers were split over whether to welcome the Arabs or to oppose them and he explains that his ancestors welcomed the Arabs and were amongst the first to embrace Islam. His ancestor ‘Ali ibn Ziyad finally left Andalusia in the 1460’s and settled in the village of Goumbou, on the border of Mauritania and Mali. ‘Ali ibn Ziyad married Khadija, sister to the Songhai ruler, Askia Muhammad. In this way Spanish, Arab and African lineages were mingled and finally found abode in Timbuktu.

The library houses the manuscript collection and Ismael’s office, in addition to an exhibition hall and lodging facilities for visiting scholars. Ismael’s collection of manuscripts was gathered from the various branches of the Ka’ti family. He endeavours to collect manuscripts that deal with his Spanish ancestry and concentrates mainly on works written by scholars from his own clan, in whose footsteps he follows. He is an accomplished scholar in his own right,  receiving a degree from Bamako University in Mali and furthering his studies in Spain.

Ismael Diadie Haidara, with Moroccan colleagues Ismael Diadie Haidara, with Moroccan colleagues

 Ismael’s collection comprises more than 12 000 manuscripts that are in the process of being properly catalogued. The manuscripts are arranged according to fonds or collections identified by the family member to whom the manuscripts belonged. The oldest manuscript in his collection is that of a Qur’an dating back to the 15th century, which belonged to his ancestor, ‘Ali ibn Ziyad.

Some renowned historians have studied some of these manuscripts and have found them to be an important source of local history. Even manuscripts dealing with strictly religious sciences are sometimes a source of local history by virtue of commentary on local events written in the very wide margins of such texts.

 The Fondo Ka'ti has developed a novel way of raising funds for the task of conserving, digitizing and cataloguing manuscripts. "Sponsor a Manuscript" is an initiative that was launched several years ago in Spain and was revived during a recent visit to Cape Town.  Individuals or institutions can fill out a sponsorship form with their details and commit a certain annual amount towards a manuscript.  The Fondo Ka’ti staff will then report on which manuscript has been sponsored, giving details such as title, author and composition date (if known), along with a picture.  This is a creative way of raising funds in an environment where even the smallest amount can make a big difference.

If you are interested in sponsoring a manuscript please download the attached form and correspond directly with the Fondo Kati ([email protected]).