Last night we had a Djenne get together in Birgit’s flat with Ton van der Lee and Pierre Maas. Both of them are venerable Djenne characters, the former the Dutchman who built the large beautiful Djenne style house on the Bani which one sees from the Bani crossing at Sanouna. He wrote the book ‘Het Zandkasteel’, which Dutch people are all invariably including as their holiday reading material, about his time in Djenne. Pierre Maas is an architect with many years experience of working on the Unesco restoration scheme of the old Djenne houses, which the Dutch have led.
It was a nice evening, which started with my attempt at Djenne Djenno cocktails. I do not know whether it was the lack of the Djenne sunset, but there was certainly something missing, and although the ingredients were faithfully reproduced, they were nothing like what is served in the sunset bar…
I asked them what they thought about my latest idea about the Djenne manuscripts.
It is something I have been mulling over for a week or so, ever since talking with Cathy Collins at the British Library. I am going to have to put together a proposal for the funding of the Major Project, which will include the digitization of some of the manuscripts. But we can’t just take pictures willy-nilly of all the manuscript that have been found, there must be some rationale behind the choice. How do we make a choice of what to include?
Our Malian expert, Abdel Kader Haidara refuses to make any value judgments about what is important and says that everything is important. We are supposed to present what there is, and the scholars who will later use the library or the digitized archive will be the ones who decide what is valuable. One will decide one thing and another will use the archive for something else. That is all well and good, but not very helpful to me. A choice must be made.
So the idea is this: The only significant difference that has been noted between the Timbuctu manuscripts and those discovered so far in Djenne is that there are many more dealing with the subject of magic or ‘maraboutage’, as it is called in Djenne. Of the several thousand manuscripts found, almost half are about magic.