5 February 2013

South Africa: Minister Paul Mashatile Pledges Continued Support Towards Reconstruction and Preservation Efforts of the Ahmed Baba Institute and Manuscripts

press release

South African Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Paul Mashatile, pledges continued support towards reconstruction and preservation efforts of the Ahmed Baba Institute and Library, and in particular the historic Timbuktu manuscripts.

The Ministry of Arts and Culture is confident that a lasting peace will be found in Mali. The conflict has led to immense suffering for the people of Mali. Recent reports indicate that buildings housing historical manuscripts may have been damaged.

We will continue to work with the people of Mali, the continent and the rest of the world to find lasting peace in this part of the world.

Mali is a site where Africa's vast cultural and intellectual wealth flourished over many centuries. South Africa continues to pledge support to restoration efforts of the cultural sites including the Ahmed Baba Library and the manuscripts.

Minister Mashatile reiterates that in 2012 when African Ministers of Culture met in South Africa, they called upon the international community to provide support for the conservation of heritage projects that may be requested by Mali to ensure the conservation of heritage properties. They also requested that African governments collaborate in preventing the trafficking of cultural objects and manuscripts from Timbuktu. South Africa remains committed to this call.

The board of the African World Heritage Fund has approved financial support to the government of Mali for any emergency work towards the restoration and safeguarding of the Malian heritage that may have been damaged as a result of the conflict.

In 2001 the South African government first initiated a project with their Malian counterparts aimed at improving efforts to conserve the Timbuktu manuscripts. These inspirational manuscripts represent Africa's pre-colonial contribution to world civilisation. These manuscripts were used in the eighth centuries to teach a variety of subjects. The South African government pledged support to rebuild the library and archival infrastructure of the Institute.

The South African government in partnership with business and civil society established a Trust Fund to raise funds towards the building of the library. The building was completed and handed over to the Malian government in January 2009. The South African government has also trained a number of Malian conservators and heritage professionals.

We continue to offer support towards restoration of cultural sites and artefacts in Mali.

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