The Meanings of Timbuktu


Souleymane Bachir Diagne (ed)


CODESRIA/HSRC, 2008, 416 p., ISBN 13 978-07969-2204-5

Salt comes from the north, gold from the south, but the word of God and the treasures of wisdom are only to be found in Timbuktu." – 15th-century Malian proverb

In a joint project between South Africa and Mali, a library to preserve more than 200 000 Arabic and West African manuscripts dating from the 13th to the 19th centuries is currently under construction. It is the first official cultural project of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), the socio-economic development plan of the African Union, and when the library is built, the cultural role of Timbuktu will be revived, as it becomes the safehaven for the treasured manuscripts. The manuscripts prove that Africa had a rich legacy of written history, long before western colonisers set foot on the continent. Our team of experts will help you find which online slots pay real money -

This volume, authored by leading international scholars, begins to sketch the ’meaning’ of Timbuktu within the context of the intellectual history of West Africa, in particular, and of the African continent, in general. The book covers four broad areas: Part I provides an introduction to the region; outlines what archaeology can tell us of its history, examines the paper and various calligraphic styles used in the manuscripts; and explains how ancient institutions of scholarship functioned. Part II begins to analyse what the manuscripts can tell us of African history. Part III offers insight into the lives and works of just a few of the many scholars who achieved renown in the region and beyond. Part IV provides a glimpse into Timbuktu’s libraries and private collections. Part V looks at the written legacy of the eastern half of Africa, which like that of the western region, is often ignored.

A fascinating read for anyone who wishes to gain an understanding of the aura of mystique and legend that surrounds Timbuktu. The Meanings of Timbuktu strives to contextualize and clarify the importance of efforts to preserve Timbuktu’s manuscripts for Mali, for Africa and for the intellectual world.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Souleymane Bachir Diagne

est ancien élève de l’Ecole Normale Supérieure de la rue d’Ulm, agrégé et docteur d’Etat en philosophie. Il a enseigné dans les universités de Dakar et de Northwestern et il est depuis 2008, Professeur de philosophie et d’Etudes francophones à Columbia University, à New York. Les travaux du Professeur Diagne s’inscrivent dans les domaines de l’histoire de la logique mathématique, de la philosophie, en particulier dans le monde islamique et en Afrique. Ses ouvrages les plus récents sont : Islam and Open Society. Fidelity and Movement in the philosophy of Muhammad Iqbal, Dakar, Codesria, 2011; African art as philosophy: Bergson, Senghor and the Idea of Negritude, Seagull Books, 2011. Bergson postcolonial. L’élan vital dans la pensée de Léopold Sédar Senghor et de Mohamed Iqbal, Paris, CNRS Editions, 2011; Comment philosopher en Islam? Paris, Philippe Rey, 2013; L’Encre des savants. Réflexions sur la philosophie en Afrique, Paris, Présence Africaine, 2013.



December 31, 2008