A couple of weeks ago I started taking classes of Historic Bookbinding at OCAC . My profession is painter and graphic artist, so I’m always interested to learn more about things related to artistic creation.
I’ve already made a couple of books that recreate the art of bookbinding as it was done centuries ago, like the nag hammadi books.
When I heard about the invasion in northern Mali, I immediately remembered the ancient manuscripts of Timbuktu.
Usually when a culture invades another, the first thing it does is destroy whatever it finds in its path as a way to impose the new rules. From lives to buildings, the invader’s mission is to create fear and to erase anything that reminds the population of their past. This not only happens in Africa but all over the world, it’s common to all cultures and religions. One of the things Spanish colonizers did in America centuries ago was to destroy all local temples and build their churches right on the rubble to force locals to convert to the new belief.
The same happened a few weeks ago in Timbuktu. The ancients manuscripts that have survived hard conditions and previous invasions, became the target of the invaders.
Fortunately, the local population was already on alert and one of the first things they did was to hide their treasure, even risking their own lives. Some manuscripts were burned and lost forever, but many still remain hidden and guarded by the people of Mali.
Of course that I value human life over any other thing, but these manuscripts must be preserved since they belong to all of us, they tell the story of humankind. Generations of people have been born and died, but their legacy still remains in the ancient books they left behind. The ancient people still talk to us through the pages of their books, they are still alive in their legacy.
It’s obvious that the people of Mali believes in that since they are willing to risk their lives to preserve the manuscripts. That reveals the power of culture and art.