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AAL is a collaborative initiative between Boston University and the West African Research Center (WARC) in part funded by the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme. The AAL Project is led by Dr. Fallou Ngom (Professor of Anthropology and Director of the African Studies Center at Boston University). AAL is envisioned as a digital “Library of Alexandria” of Islamized Africa, a continental open access public repository of aggregated Ajami materials. The first step in building AAL took place the summer of 2011. Dr. Ngom and Mr. Roger Brisson, Head of Metadata Services of Boston University traveled to Senegal to lead a workshop at WARC focused on digitization techniques of endangered Wolof Ajami manuscripts. Five people were trained in the workshop, including Mr. Ablaye Diakite (AAL-Team Member), Mr. Birane Gassama (AAL-Team member), Mr. Abdoulaye Niang (WARC Technical Director), Mr. Aliou Badara Sarr (WARC Assistant Librarian), and Mr. Ali Diop (an independent scholar).

Although written records are rarely regarded as part of sub-Saharan Africa’s intellectual heritage, important bodies of Ajami literature have existed in Oromo, Somali, Tigrigna, Kiswahili, Amharic, and Malagasy in East Africa, and Bamanakan, Mandinka, Kanuri, Yoruba, Berber, Hausa, Wolof, and Fulfulde in West Africa for centuries. In South Africa, Muslim Malay slaves produced the first written record of Afrikaans in Ajami. The neglect is due to a number of factors, including the lack of an Ajami public depository, the limited number of individuals with the linguistic skills and cultural background required to analyze Ajami documents, and a lack of recognition of the cultural value of Ajami texts, as many Europeans and Arab scholars with the linguistic competence to study these materials have often deemed them of little scholarly interest. Most assume that sources of useful knowledge on Africa are either oral or written in European languages. Yet, Ajami traditions of Africa are centuries-old and are quite varied, consisting of satirical, polemical and protest poetry, as well as biographies, eulogies, genealogies, talismanic resources, therapeutic medical manuals, family journals, business transactions, historical records, speeches, texts on administrative and diplomatic matters (correspondence between Sultans and provincial rulers), Islamic jurisprudence, behavioral codes, grammar, and even visual arts. The primary goal of AAL is to ensure that these materials are no longer treated as insignificant vestiges, but rather as major sources of local African knowledge, without which a holistic and in-depth understanding of Islamized Africa will remain elusive.

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  • Beyond African orality: digital preservation of Mandinka ʿAjamī archives of Casamance 

    Ngom, Fallou; Castro, Eleni (Wiley, 2019-06-14)
    This article focuses on the digital preservation of African sources written in Mandinka ʿAjamī, i.e. the enriched form of the Arabic script used to write the Mandinka language for centuries. ʿAjamī writing has been utilized ...
  • Digital Preservation of Mandinka Ajami Materials of Casamance, Senegal 

    Castro, Eleni; Ngom, Fallou (2018-10-11)
    This poster outlines the international research collaboration between Boston University, the West African Research Center, and local experts in Senegal during a 15 month project --funded by the British Library’s Endangered ...
  • Panegyric poems for Prophet Muhammad 

    Bayo, Muhammadu Amin; Bayo, Ousmane
    This manuscript is a collection of several panegyric poems (Arabic: Madḥ) praising Prophet Muhammad. The poems celebrate his struggles, virtues, and success in the nascent days of Islam. They are written in Arabic with ...
  • Solutions to problems (Mandinka: Jumaloo) 

    Bayo, Muhammadu Amin; Bayo, Ousmane
    This item consists of a collection of several small manuscripts with recipes and remedies to address people’s problems. The social preoccupations that the manuscripts seek to address include: infertility among women, how ...
  • Special prayers to solve problems 

    Bayo, Ousmane
    This short Mandinka Ajami manuscript contains special prayers and techniques used to address specific problems. The manuscript includes names of Prophets, the companions of Prophet Muhammad, and angels. The manuscript was ...
  • Divination sciences (Mandinka: Ramuloo) 

    Bayo, Ousmane; Unknown author
    This manuscript is a contemporary copy of a 19th century manual of divination sciences in Mandinka Ajami. Divination sciences are popular in Muslim Africa. They are known in Senegambian Mandinka communities as Ramuloo (from ...
  • Images of inside the home of manuscript owner, El-hadji Lamine Bayo 

    Ngom, Fallou; Ngom, Ibrahima (2018-01-09)
    Images of inside the home of manuscript owner, El-hadji Lamine Bayo, in Belfort, Ziguinchor, Senegal.
  • Images outside of the home of manuscript owner, El-hadji Lamine Bayo 

    Ngom, Fallou; Ngom, Ibrahima (2018-01-09)
    Images taken outside of the home of manuscript owner, El-hadji Lamine Bayo, in Belfort, Ziguinchor, Senegal.
  • Interview with manuscript owner, El-hadji Lamine Bayo, Part 2 

    Yaffa, Ibrahima; Bayo, El-hadji Lamine (2018-01-09)
    Part 2 of a video interview with the manuscript owner (El-hadji Lamine Bayo) at the Hotel Nema-Kadior in Ziguinchor, Senegal. These interviews were conducted on January 9, 2018, by Mr. Ibrahima Yaffa with El-hadji Lamine ...
  • Digitization images of El-hadji Lamine Bayo's manuscript collection 

    Ngom, Fallou; Ngom, Ibrahima; Castro, Eleni (2018-01-09)
    Images of the manuscript digitization and interview work done on January 9, 2018 with manuscript owner, El-hadji Lamine Bayo, at the Hotel Nema-Kadior in Ziguinchor, Senegal.

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