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Did you know Timbuktu is a real city in West Africa?

Manuscripts from the popular ancient city have been made available to the public

Map of Mali - Passion Paris

Google Arts & Culture has, since 2015, been working with local and international organisations to digitise, curate and share the incredible stories and rich heritage of West African nation, Mali.

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Launching the expansive repository, Mali Magic, Google also announced the inclusion of over 40,000 endangered manuscripts from the Malian city of legend, Timbuktu.

Speaking at the launch of Mali Magic on March 10, Dr Abdel Kader Haidara, the ‘badass librarian’ known for smuggling the manuscripts out of Timbuktu, emphasised the significance of the documents to Mali's heritage.

“[They] are more than important historical documents. Central to the heritage of the West African nation of Mali, they represent the long legacy of written knowledge and academic excellence in Africa, and hold potential to inspire global learning from the actions of the past in confronting modern-day issues,” Dr Haidara stated.

Program Manager and Digital Archaeologist at Google Arts & Culture, Chance Coughenour added: “The Malian city of Timbuktu gave birth to an abundance of learning in the fields of human rights, morality, politics, astronomy and literature captured in thousands of manuscripts. When this ancient knowledge was threatened by extremist groups in 2012, local communities raced against time to preserve these treasures. This legacy is now available for people across the world to explore.”

In addition to the endangered manuscripts, people from all over the world will now be able to view a collection of expertly-documented items on the country’s rich art, architecture, scholarship and musical tradition.

Mali Magic contains more than 50 art exhibits, which include the first online, interactive tours of some of Mali’s most significant historic sites, at-risk mausoleums and mosques including the Sidi Yahiya and Djinguereber Mosques and the Tomb of Askia, all created using Street View.

Arts & Culture also worked with artist and musician DJ Spooky (Paul Miller) to create short videos to explore the evolution of storytelling, from West Africa to the American blues.

An original album, Maliba, by Malian singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara, produced in Mali and written about the country’s cultural legacy, was created exclusively for the project. The collection also contains a wealth of videos and imagery which capture Mali’s contemporary art scene and profile some of its artists.

“The preservation of global heritage is a huge endeavour," adds Coughenour, “Many experts, NGOs and cultural institutions work in this space and do an incredible job. We are honoured to support our partners with the technology to make their work accessible to people all over the world,” he stated.

Organisations working in partnership with Google Arts & Culture on the Mali project include: SAVAMA - Manuscript Digitization & Curation, Timbuktu Renaissance, UNESCO, Instruments 4 Africa and the Brooklyn Public Library.

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