10 March 2020

IFLA Represented at the UNESCO International Consultation on the Safeguarding, Accessibility and Promotion of Ancient Manuscripts from the Sahel

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The UNESCO Regional Office in Dakar, Senegal organised this international consultation, held January 22-24, 2020 in in the Malian capital, Bamako. IFLA was represented at this sub-regional meeting by the Director of the Regional PAC Centre for Francophone Africa, Cameroon.

The meeting aimed to contribute to strengthening the preservation, accessibility and enhancement of ancient manuscripts from the Sahel, and of Mali in particular, in order to improve universal access to knowledge on the written history of Africa.

It was an excellent opportunity to bring together experts in the field from different African countries to discuss proposals. The goal of this gathering was to produce the following results:

  • A proposal of an action plan with concrete next-steps and clarification of roles in order to strengthen the sustainable preservation, accessibility and promotion of ancient manuscripts from the Sahel
  • A proposal of a framework for establishing an exhaustive inventory which considers together the geographical situation and the state of conservation of ancient manuscripts of Mali
  • Determine the method and means to promote the accessibility of manuscripts which are already adequately preserved and digitised
  • Identify avenues for partnerships and funding for projects relating to the preservation and accessibility of ancient Sahelian manuscripts
  • Stimulate a new interest in the field of scientific research on ancient manuscripts of Mali

The opening ceremony of this international consultation was presided over by the Malian Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Prof. Mahamoudou Famanta, in the presence of the Deputy Special Representative of MINUSMA and coordinator of humanitarian actions in Mali, Ms. Mbaranga Gasarabwe, of the Deputy Director Regional for the Communication and Information Sector UNESCO Mr. Chakchouk Moez.

Following the opening ceremony, activities continued with an inaugural session structured around the following themes:

  • Ancient manuscripts of Mali: past, present and prospective
  • Ancient manuscripts of Mali: a common and universal heritage

The consultation continued in with sessions organised by theme. Below is a summary of each session with the main discussion points for each.

Session 1

  • The Memory of the World program: perspectives on the preservation and accessibility of ancient manuscripts
  • The commitment of UNESCO and its partners to safeguard the ancient manuscripts of Mali since the 2012 crisis, results and prospects: action plan and mobilization of the international community
  • Overview of previous meetings around ancient manuscripts of Mali: lessons to be learned
  • State of the physical conservation and exploitation of ancient manuscripts in Mali;
  • Ancient manuscripts of Mali: from paper to digital, what are the challenges? Lead by the Ahmed Baba Institute for Advanced Studies and Islamic Research in Timbuktu

Session 2:

Experience-sharing from different countries in the field of conservation, enhancement and dissemination of documentary heritage.

Mr. Norbert Tangmo, director of the IFLA Regional PAC Centre in Cameroon took the floor during this session and presented the state of conservation, enhancement and dissemination of the documentary heritage in Cameroon. He highlighted the actions already undertaken by IFLA and the Ministry of Culture and touched on CERDOTOLA and its missions, emphasizing the IFLA PAC Centre in Cameroon and the impact that they intend to have in French-speaking Africa.

Session 3:

Establishment of think tanks on the following themes:

  • Safeguarding, protecting and conserving: the measures necessary for the safeguarding, protection and preservation of manuscripts
  • Valuing and disseminating: the conditions for better scientific exploitation of manuscripts
  • Prospects and challenges: Ensure good coordination between various actors, including donors, for optimal management of funding

Session 4: 

This plenary session made it possible to present the results of the work of the various groups as well as the formulation of the proposals and recommendations. The plenary ended with the presentation and validation of the work summary report.

The following TV coverage was shared by UNESCO. Please see the UNESCO website for more information. 

 A commitment has been made to hold a follow-up meeting for final approval of the proposals. IFLA will be involved involved throughout this process through its Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Program. 

PAC (Preservation and Conservation), Conservation, Cultural heritage, Digitisation, Meetings, Networking, Preservation, Rare books and manuscripts, Mali

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