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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 founded and led by Dr. Fallou Ngom (Professor of Anthropology and Director of the African Studies Center at Boston University). AAL is envisioned as a continental open access public repository of aggregated Ajami texts from Muslim Africa. The first step in building AAL took place in the summer of 2011. Professor 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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  • Photographs of the Dagbanli Ajami and Arabic Manuscripts of Northern Ghana project 

    Issahak, Baba; Ajura, Afa Yusif; Haas, Karl J.; Dawuni, Saeed Alhassan; Abdul-Fatawu, Fuseini (2019-05)
    Images of Baba Issahak, Afa Ajura and the fieldwork team: Karl J. Haas, PhD, Saeed Alhassan Dawuni, and Fuseini Abdul-Fataw in Tamale, Ghana.
  • N Sabili N Sabili Ngo (I am writing my story) 

    Ajura, Afa Yusif (1960)
    This piece is a report on Afa Ajura's visit to Nigerian Independence festivities as a member of the Ghana delegation, which had been sent by President Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah in 1960. In the text, Afa Ajura lists some of ...
  • Ti Jamma Ti Duuma Naawuni Ko (We worship our God alone) 

    Ajura, Afa Yusif
    Written in the 1960s, this song is directed towards followers of indigenous religion, advising them to abandon shrines and fetishes in order to follow Allah, the one true God.
  • Nahaanu Junuudu 

    Ajura, Afa Yusif (1964)
    This is one of the three manuscripts in the collection written in Arabic. Baba Issahak had no information on the contents or context of the text. The song text is contained on the first page, while written glosses added ...
  • Doliya Ti Duuma Naawuni (Follow Our Lord God) 

    Ajura, Afa Yusif (1961)
    Consists of 111 lines of text. This piece is aimed at followers of indigenous religious and spiritual practices, urging them to convert from the polytheistic belief system to Islam.
  • Ti Pagiri Ti Duuma Naawuni Ti Suhimu (We should thank our Lord God and pray to Him) 

    Ajura, Afa Yusif
    Consists of 26 lines. This piece is an exhortation to pray.
  • Salatu 

    Ajura, Afa Yusif (1960)
    As its Arabic name suggests, this song is a prayer. Baba Issahak had no other information about its contents.
  • Salatu Allah Ameen (Prayer to God) 

    Ajura, Afa Yusif
    This is one of the three manuscripts in the collection written in Arabic. Baba Issahak had no information on the contents or context of the text.
  • N/A 

    Ajura, Afa Yusif
    Mid-20th century manuscript in Hausa Ajami.
  • Afa Bo Mbala Cheni Gindi Tinsi? (What Kind of Malam Travels From Town to Town?) 

    Ajura, Afa Yusif
    This song challenges Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse (Niasse; Inyass), a prominent Tijaniyya leader and preacher from Koalack, Senegal, who toured Ghana in 1961. During his trip, he visited Accra, Kumasi, Prang, Tamale, Walewale, ...

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