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The Legacy of Timbuktu

Wonders of the Written World

Legacy of Timbuktu In the last millennium an important global legacy was uncovered—the literate culture of AFRICA—symbolized in the extraordinary richness of historical manuscripts that still survive. These ancient documents reveal that a sophisticated literate culture flourished in the city of Timbuktu on the edge of the Sahara Desert beginning in the 13th century and lasting more than 700 years. A crossroads of international caravan commerce, including the book trade, Timbuktu was also a celebrated center of learning, attracting scholars, and thousands of students and teachers from many countries and background.

The International Museum of Muslim Cultures in partnership with the Mamma Haidara Memorial Library in Timbuktu will showcase an exhibit of this glorious age and its legacy to America through the tragic events of the slave trade as it presents The Legacy of Timbuktu: Wonders of the Written Word Exhibition.

Haidara Collection

Part of Haidara Family's collection of manuscripts, hidden for centuries to protect them.

Books were not only brought into Timbuktu, but local scholars wrote their own works, and artisans scribed, decorated and bound them in a sophisticated local book production industry tied to the global Islamic knowledge industry—activities that culminated in a complex and highly viable socio-economic model. Leo Africanus, celebrated medieval historian, wrote “the buying and selling of books were more profitable than any other commerce in the city of Timbuktu.” The feature attraction will be 25 of the estimated one million manuscripts recently re-rediscovered in the West African country of Mali. Bound in leather, they contain finely articulated calligraphy and colorful, even gilded, illustrations and cover a wide variety of subjects.

In addition to the rare African manuscripts, experience the rich intellectual and cultural blend of African and Islamic heritage shared through videos and audio production, interactive media, models, artifact displays, and hands-on activities. Lean about, Islam’s spread into West Africa; Life in a leather tent of Saharan caravan traders; rise and decline of the great empires of West Africa and their leaders; the legendary Sankore Mosque and University; Methods andtools of manuscript production; French colonialism in Mali and the slave trade; life in Mali today and the work of generational artisans; sketches from the live of African Muslims enslaved in America. The participatory laboratory will feature Malian musical instruments and demonstrate the link between this indigenous music and American blues.

Islamic Moorish Spain

Companion Exhibit
Islamic Moorish Spain: Its Legacy to Europe and the West

IMMC’s inaugural exhibit, Islamic Moorish Spain: Its Legacy to Europe and the West, which opened in April 2001, will be re-installed in the new museum gallery.

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For information on visiting the exhibit, see visitor information.

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Head Dress

This silver headdress worn by a Malian bride will be among many artifacts displayed in the Timbuktu Exhibition.

LEGACY OF TIMBUKTU

"In the last millennium an important global legacy was uncovered—the literate culture of AFRICA!"

This legacy lives in the extraordinary richness of historical manuscripts that still survive.

Read More