The Meanings of Timbuktu By Shamil Jeppie and Souleymane Bachir Diagnes, eds. (Pretoria: Human Science Research Council in association with Dakar: CODESRIA, 2008. 376 pages.)

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Muhammed Haron

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Abstract

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki took a proactive stand in recognizing
the significance and importance of Timbuktu’s rich African
Muslim scholarly legacy after he visited the city during his official visit to
Mali in November 2001. As a consequence of this trip, he initiated the South
Africa-Mali Timbuktu project, which was subsequently declared a special
“South African President” project. Apart from deepening the relations
between these two nation-states, one extremely important outcome was the
South African Department of Arts and Culture-supported conference held in
Cape Town in August 2005. The book under review, which consists of the
papers presented, was produced by Shamil Jeppie (advisor to South
Africa’s inter-ministerial committee, which is also responsible for this special
project, and a historian based at the University of Cape Town) and
Souleymane Bachir Diagne (professor of philosophy, Northwestern University
[Illinois]).
This invaluable text makes African scholarship proud and has injected
new life into Timbuktu and its manuscript tradition. The mere fact that it was
aesthetically produced and accompanied by appropriate eye-catching illustrations
is evidence that the editors took pride in compiling and editing material
that would, upon first glance, attract the public eye. That said, the book itself is divided into five distinct sections consisting of twenty-four chapters,
including the editors’ two introductory chapters ...

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