One of the objectives of the Keep is to identify and celebrate the contribution that small towns can make to the globalised world. Perhaps there is no better example than Timbuktu, a centre of learning, trade and philosophy from earliest antiquity. It was a centre for scholarly and commercial activity – its mental maps were as important as its trade routes that enriched the known world for centuries. The recent invasion of the city and destruction of its historical centre is appalling; the audacious rescue by academic activists of its intellectual heritage is amazing.
Gill Lloyd, a trustee of Hay2Timbuktu, tells The Keep that two visitors from Timbuktu, Hay-on-Wye’s twin town in Mali, will join the people of Hay for a week of activities in and around the town from 17th to 24th September. Please give these visitors a warm welcome to Hay.
Bilal Maharanee is a teacher at one of the schools that Hay supports in Timbuktu and Elmehdi Ag Wakina is Director of programmes at AMSS, Hay’s partner charity in Timbuktu. During their visit to Hay they will spend time in local schools, meet local council members, take time around the town meeting the local community and attend the Hay2timbuktu AGM and annual social event at the Globe.
“In recent years”, says Gill, “Timbuktu has suffered due to the 2012 Jihadi invasion of the town, and although they were driven out by French troops, the town has been left with many inhabitants still in refugee camps in Burkina Faso and Mauritania.
It is now extremely difficult and unsafe to travel to Timbuktu so the town has lost all of its tourist industry. Many historic buildings were damaged during the attacks and some of the historic manuscripts were destroyed although local people saved most of them.”
To know more about how these books and manuscripts, cultural and literary treasures were saved, read the fascinating new book, The Bas-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer, recently published by Simon & Schuster.
The programme for the week includes a guided tour of Hay conducted by Elmehdi Ag Wakina and Bilal Mahamane from Timbuktu explaining the links between the town of ancient manuscripts and Hay, the Hay2Timbuktu AGM and the projection of They Will Have To Kill Us First, telling the story of the musicians in Timbuktu during the attack on the city in 2012 and how they rose up against the insurgents with some wonderful music.