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Lecture | Worlds to Discover: Manuscripts from the Muslim World

Worlds to Discover: Ajami Manuscripts of West Africa

Tuesday 13 December 2022
Worlds to Discover: Manuscripts from the Muslim World
University Library
Witte Singel 27
2311 BG Leiden
Manuscript Or. 14.052 from the Leiden Special Collections

In addition to texts in Arabic, the manuscript heritage of Islamic West Africa includes written attestations of local languages in Arabic script (Ajami). The Ajami writings range from brief explanatory glosses on didactic texts to historical accounts, religious and secular poems, and healing and talismanic recipes. Their material manifestations are also diverse: some are written in neat calligraphic hands in deliberate layouts with elaborate decorations, while others are scribbled in unsteady hands, sometimes on paper scraps. Over the past few decades, Ajami practices and manuscripts have become less invisible and more well-researched, yet new artefacts, texts, and even earlier unreported Ajami traditions continue to come to light. The talk will give an overview of the major West African Ajami traditions and their respective manuscript cultures. It will survey the current preservation and research initiatives and discuss the potential of Ajami manuscripts for insights into West African Islamic societies and scholarship.

About Darya Ogorodnikova

Darya Ogorodnikova is a researcher at the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, University of Hamburg. Her research focuses on manuscripts with Soninke and Mandinka Ajami writings, their codicological characteristics, linguistic configurations, and contexts of production and use. In her PhD thesis defended at the University of Hamburg in 2021, she used manuscript evidence to reconstruct educational practices and scholarly networks in the greater Senegambia region.

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