Digitising Pulaar Islamic Texts: Six Archives of the Taal Families in Senegal and Mali

During the efforts to preserve pre-modern Islamic manuscripts in West Africa, important volumes of Pulaar Ajami writings have been left out. Detailing the islamisation of the Pulaar-speaking people in the region, the manuscripts represent an important intellectual contribution to the world’s Islamic library.

While the manuscripts of Allajj Umar Taal (ca. 1796-1864) and his grandson Saidu Nuru Taal (1862-1975) are well known, the writings in Pulaar Ajami and Arabic of their descendants and spiritual disciples remain unknown to the world. Written in the 19th and 20th centuries, these texts are held in high esteem by Pulaar people belonging to the Tijaniyya Sufi order. Their neglect has long meant a silence in the study of Islamisation among the Pulaar-speaking people in the region: access to these manuscripts will provide scholars with key answers about Pulaar poetry, ritual and performance, sociolinguistics, and translation studies.

The manuscripts are neglected and subject to decay, as few scholars know about their existence. In addition to the precarious preservation that exposes manuscripts to termites, water, and fading, the Pulaar Islamic manuscripts have been threatened to destruction by human action. Wildfires and conflicts in the region pose a continuous threat to these endangered materials.

The project digitised 6,000 pages of manuscripts from Senegal and Mali. All staff were trained in digitisation and archiving. The project shed light on the wealth of material in West Africa, and increased understanding on its value.

Project Details

Location: Mali, Senegal, Western Africa, Africa Organiser(s): Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) Project partner(s): University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Funder(s): Arcadia Funding received: £36,342 Commencement Date: 08/2019 Project Status: Completed
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