Segments in this Video

African Scholarly Legacy (01:49)


Experts discuss Africa's written tradition that predates European colonization.

Timbuktu Origins (02:20)

Founded by Muslim traders around 1,000 AD, the city prospered from trans-Saharan commerce. Learn the legend of its name.

Timbuktu Trade (01:59)

Timbuktu was a hub for caravans between North and Sub-Saharan Africa. View a reenactment of a 1592 marketplace.

Djinguereber Mosque (02:24)

Timbuktu's economic prosperity allowed spiritual and intellectual life; learn about Emperor Kankan Musa's mosque built in 1325 by an Andalusian architect.

Timbuktu Scholarship (01:22)

14th century academics learned Arabic to correspond with traders and to better understand Islam.

Sankore University (01:49)

14th century Muslim academics studied in mosques. Learn about Timbuktu's education system.

Timbuktu Manuscripts (02:34)

View 14th century religious and scientific pages written in Arabic. Literacy was universal and students voiced political opinions.

Ahmed Baba (04:17)

Learn about the 17th century scholar's background in Timbuktu. He taught law, literature, mathematics, astronomy and politics at Sankore University.

Colonizing Timbuktu (05:19)

Politically blocked by Europe and Turkey, Moroccan king al-Mansour invaded Sudan in 1578. Baba organized resistance and was among 70 scholars arrested.

Prisoner in Morocco (04:11)

Baba was transported to Marrakesh, where he was forced to do intellectual work. Moroccan colleagues lobbied al-Mansour to improve his living conditions.

Confronting a King (03:18)

Learn how Baba chastised al-Mansour for enslaving another Muslim, and gained his respect.

House Arrest (02:39)

Visit the Marrakesh home where Baba taught Moroccan scholars and spread awareness of Timbuktu's intellectual heritage.

Attack on Scholarship (02:26)

The king's son, Malway Zidan set Ahmed Baba free. Baba returned to Timbuktu to find the Moroccans had dismantled universities; he retreated until his death in 1626.

Timbuktu's Decline (01:46)

Experts present political and economic theories for the city's retreat from North African trade and scholarship.

Timbuktu's Resilience (01:23)

The desert city thrives in 2009. Residents believe isolation has protected it from epidemics and natural disasters.

Timbuktu's Scholarly Legacy (02:44)

Abdullah Abdarahim shows manuscripts inherited from his father. Family libraries are passed down through generations.

Al Wangari Library (02:34)

A Timbuktu family manuscript collection dates to 1523. Residents are proud of their African intellectual legacy.

Ahmed Baba Institute (03:11)

A Timbuktu manuscript center attracts African researchers. Mali and South Africa are funding restoration efforts; the director hopes the collection will inspire African development.

Preserving Timbuktu Manuscripts (02:18)

View footage of the Ahmed Baba Institute opening in 2009. Experts hope the ancient civilization's legacy will empower African scholars for generations.

Credits: The Manuscripts of Timbuktu (01:04)

Credits: The Manuscripts of Timbuktu

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The Manuscripts of Timbuktu

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One of the definitions for Timbuktu in the Oxford Dictionary is “any distant or remote place”. Featuring commentary by African scholars, reenactments, and an original musical score by Vieux Farka Touré, this documentary critiques this limited view by demonstrating that Timbuktu was once home to an advanced civilization. It was a leading cultural, economic, scientific and religious center that made a significant and lasting impact on Africa and the world before European intervention. This film establishes the importance of preserving thousands of ancient manuscripts as an empowering legacy for African scholarship today. With English subtitles. (52 minutes)

Length: 52 minutes

Item#: BVL57869

Copyright date: ©2009

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