The Kita district was the oldest colonial district in Mali. Located at the crossroads of several trade routes, the cosmopolitan region was a refugee zone that welcomed populations fleeing persecutions from neighbouring kingdoms. Preserving the archival material of the region will encourage more research on the history of Western Mali.
Founded in 1880, Kita is the oldest district of French colonisation in Mali, as it played a crucial role in the military conquest. For this reason, the Cercle – the main administrative authority since colonisation – collected a tremendous amount of information about the social and economic life of the region in the 20th century. Located in the centre of various trade routes of gold and of enslaved people, Kita became a cosmopolitan region, welcoming refugees from neighbouring kingdoms. However, due to the lack of available documentation from the region, the slave trade in Western Mali has hardly been studied.
Since the independence of Mali in 1960, the documents have never been classified or preserved. They are abandoned in an old building dating from the colonial period, in a room that is flooded every year during the rainy season. The content of the boxes is not clear. There is no knowledge on how to preserve the documents, nor financial availability.
Stemming from a pilot survey project in 2016, the project catalogued and digitised 14,487 documents. The archival team in Kita was trained in digitisation and metadata collection. The digital files are deposited with the local authorities, the National Archives of Mali, and the British Library.