top of page

The Timbuktu Manuscripts (2016)

Flute and percussion. 12:00.

The Timbuktu Manuscripts are a vast archive of thousands of historical
manuscripts that document a golden era of Malian culture, when, between
the 13th and 17th centuries, Timbuktu was a major centre of wealth and Islamic scholarship. Writers such as Ahmed Baba covered a wide range of religious, scientific and other topics, which often placed particular emphasis on peace, tolerance and conflict resolution, for which Mali has become known.

In 2012 Islamist (Tuareg) rebels took over Timbuktu, putting the manuscripts
at grave risk. From BBC Magazine: “According the their strict interpretation
of Islam, they began destroying shrines they considered ‘idolatrous.’ The
documents held in Timbuktu since its glory days…were equally vulnerable.”
In the face of this immanent threat, an unlikely coalition of library officials,
bus drivers, taxi drivers, and canoers, lead by Dr. Abdel Kader Haidara,
hatched a plan to evacuate the manuscripts from Timbuktu, dramatically
smuggling them, through extremist-guarded checkpoints, to safey in the
capital of Bamako.

My piece weaves together fragments of this story with fragments of text from
the Timbuktu Manuscripts. Part 2 features quotes from historic scholar
Ahmed Baba, while part 3 quotes Leo Africanus, a “16th century traveller.”
My source for this material can be found at the website of the Tomcouctou
Manuscript Project -


Composed for Caballito Negro (Tessa Brinckman & Terry Longshore).

bottom of page