Thursday Seminar: A treatise on scholars and rulers from late 16th century Timbuktu


Thursday, June 1, 2023, 6:00pm to 7:30pm


I Tatti

Speaker: Shamil Jeppie (I Tatti/ University of Cape Town)

The Timbuktu scholar, Ahmad Baba, wrote a number of works, most of which remain unedited and untranslated. One text that he probably completed in the late 1580s is the subject of this lecture. It was thought that the treatise was probably written after his arrest and exile in Marrakesh in the 1590s, and for good reason. He argues in this treatise that scholars should at all cost stay far away from rulers. He had a brief encounter with the ruler that had been the cause of his exile. The treatise does not only provide an insight into the political theory of a Timbuktu intellectual but importantly, what books he held in his library or had access to in that town on the desert edge. 

Shamil Jeppie is an historian educated in Cape Town and Princeton. He has written on aspects of South African history, the Sudan, and in recent years has been working on the history of book collecting and specific texts from Timbuktu collections. At I Tatti he is finishing his book ms that introduces the West African world of reading and writing to a larger audience, while also trying to find fresh angles on how to interpret the earliest epigraphic traces of writing in the Sahara around Timbuktu. 

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