Thursday, 20 June 2013

Timbuktu Manuscripts

TIMBUKTU - 1,000,000 MANUSCRIPTS Europeans taught for centuries that Africa had no written history, literature or philosophy (claiming Egypt was other than African). When roughly 1 MILLION manuscripts were found in Timbuktu/Mali covering , according to Reuters "all the fields of human knowledge: law, the sciences, medicine," it did not make mainstream news", yet it revealed the lies taught by Europeans concerning Africa. The Kingdom of Tombuto was named after a town of the same name, founded in 1213 or 1214 by Mansa Suleyman. Suleyman was mansa of the Mali Empire from 1341 to 1360. The brother of the powerful Kankan Musa I, he succeeded Musa's son Maghan to the throne in 1341. Moroccan historian Ibn Battuta traveled to Timbuktu to visit Suleyman's court for a period of eight months in 1352–1353. While there, Ibn Battuta recorded a substantial description of life at the court. It is recorded that Mansa Musa traveled through the cities of Timbuktu and Gao on his way to Mecca, and made them a part of his empire when he returned around 1325. He brought architects from Andalusia, a region in Spain, and Cairo to build his grand palace in Timbuktu and the great Djinguereber Mosque that still stands today. Timbuktu soon became a center of trade, and culture; markets brought in merchants from Nigeria, Egypt, and other African kingdoms, a university was founded in the city (as well as in the Malian cities of Djenné and Ségou), and Islam was spread through the markets and university, making Timbuktu a new area for Islamic scholarship. News of the Malian empire’s city of wealth even traveled across the Mediterranean to southern Europe, where traders from Venice, Granada, and Genoa soon added Timbuktu to their maps to trade manufactured goods for gold. The University of Sankore in Timbuktu was restaffed under Musa's reign, with jurists, astronomers, and mathematicians. The university became a center of learning and culture, drawing Muslim scholars from around Africa and the Middle East to Timbuktu. In 1330, the kingdom of Mossi invaded and conquered the city of Timbuktu. Gao had already been captured by Musa's general, and Musa quickly regained Timbuktu and built a rampart and stone fort, and placed a standing army, to protect the city from future invaders. While Musa’s palace has since vanished, the university and mosque still stand in Timbuktu today. ............................................................ ............................................................. Perhaps most famous among the accounts written about Timbuktu is that by Leo Africanus. Born El Hasan ben Muhammed el-Wazzan-ez-Zayyati in Granada in 1485, he was expelled along with his parents and thousands of other Muslims by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella after their reconquest of Spain in 1492. Settling in Morocco, he studied in Fes and accompanied his uncle on diplomatic missions throughout North Africa. During these travels, he visited Timbuktu. As a young man he was captured by pirates and presented as an exceptionally learned slave to Pope Leo X, who freed him, baptized him under the name "Johannis Leo de Medici", and commissioned him to write, in Italian, a detailed survey of Africa. His accounts provided most of what Europeans knew about the continent for the next several centuries. Describing Timbuktu when the Songhai empire was at its height, the English edition of his book includes the description: According to Leo Africanus, there were abundant supplies of locally produced corn, cattle, milk and butter, though there were neither gardens nor orchards surrounding the city. In another passage dedicated to describing the wealth of both the environment and the king, Africanus touches upon the rarity of some of Timbuktu's trade commodities: salt. These descriptions and passages alike caught the attention of European explorers. Africanus, though, also described the more mundane aspects of the city, such as the "cottages built of chalk, and covered with thatch" – although these went largely unheeded. ............................................................ ............................................................. Nowadays Timbuktu is, before all, a place that bears with it a sense of mystery: a 2006 survey of 150 young Britons found 34% did not believe the town existed, while the other 66% considered it "a mythical place". This sense has been acknowledged in literature describing African history and African-European relations. The origin of this mystification lies in the excitement brought to Europe by the legendary tales, especially those by Leo Africanus: Arabic sources focused mainly on more affluent cities in the Timbuktu region, such as Gao and Walata. In West Africa the city holds an image that has been compared to Europe's view on Athens. As such, the picture of the city as the epitome of distance and mystery is a European one. Down-to-earth-aspects in Africanus' descriptions were largely ignored and stories of great riches served as a catalyst for travellers to visit the inaccessible city – with prominent French explorer René Caillié characterising Timbuktu as "a mass of ill-looking houses built of earth". Now opened up, many travellers acknowledged the unfitting description of an "African El Dorado". This development shifted the city's reputation – from being fabled because of its gold to fabled because of its location and mystery: Being used in this sense since at least 1863, English dictionaries now cite Timbuktu as a metaphor for any faraway place. Long part of colloquial language, Timbuktu also found its way into literature: in Tom Robbins' novel Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, Timbuktu provides a central theme. One lead character, Larry Diamond, is vocally fascinated with the city. In the stage play Oliver!, a 1960 musical, when the title character sings to Nancy, "I'd do anything for you, dear", one of her responses is "Go to Timbuktu?" "And back again", Oliver responds. Similar uses of the city are found in movies, where it is used to indicate a place a person or good cannot be traced – in a Dutch Donald Duck comic subseries situated in Timbuktu, Donald Duck uses the city as a safe haven, and in the 1970 Disney animated feature The Aristocats, cats are threatened with being sent to Timbuktu. It is mistakenly noted to be in French Equatorial Africa, instead of French West Africa. Timbuktu has provided the main setting for at least one movie: the 1959 film Timbuktu was set in the city in 1940, although it was filmed in Kanab, Utah. Ali Farka Touré inverted the stereotype: "For some people, when you say 'Timbuktu' it is like the end of the world, but that is not true

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