Talking Timbuktu (Re-Definition)

An exploration of the idea that in the subtext of Abderrahmane Sissako’s film ‘Timbuktu’, women embody and are active purveyors of the Malian griot/tes (jeli/muso) tradition, thus the primary threat to and innate resistors of foreign insurgency

In Timbuktu life is the first thing threatened. The opening moments of Abderrahmane Sissako’s film reveal invading ‘jihadists’ stalking a young gazelle in a militarised truck, through a striking desert backdrop. In the following scene, life is the first thing taken, as idling insurgents kill beautiful wooden female African statuettes. These inaugural images are portentous, and it is immediately apparent that it is women in this venerable city who are most in extremis. Female bodies, both ligneous and corporeal, are loci of herstory, heritage and culture – everyday actors in the region’s iMande Music or jeli ii(griot) tradition. About this Lucy Durán says, “Women are the ‘animateurs’ at every traditional ceremony – whether clapping and singing to encourage the dancers or playing the iron percussion rod (nege), their presence is essential…”1 They are of deep-rooted significance in this intersection between African and Arabic iii(Islamic) traditions, that often appear to be in contradiction; either to be “tire(d)” out like the gazelle or subdued by a gradual effacement, as imperialist ideology deracinates and seizes control.

Timbuktu12

The jeli tradition traces its roots to the formation of the Islamic ivMali Empire of Sunjata (or Sundiata) Keita in 1235, where he “…instituted a universal constitution for all subjects of his new state called the viKouroukan Fouga… [which] instituted social and economic reforms including prohibitions on the maltreatment of prisoners and slaves, [and] the installation of women in government circles…”2 Ibn Battuta (1304-1369) recalls from his time in the Mali Empire city of Walata, “The condition of these people is strange and their manners outlandish. As for their men, there is no sexual jealousy in them. And none of them derives his genealogy from his father but, on the contrary, from his maternal uncle. A man does not pass on inheritance except to the sons of his sister to the exclusion of his own sons.”3 In what seems to be a form of matriarchy, it can be inferred that women would have been conspicuous in the making of Mande music. Although a patrilineal occupation, “…[t]he profession is by no means a male prerogative. There are many women griots whose talents as singers and musicians are equally remarkable.”4 The patriarchy of Sissako’s jihadists constantly attacks the institution of vmusic (mostly performed by women) in Timbuktu, banning it because it is not ‘sacred’, when it is the prohibition that is in fact heresy. Achille Mbembe (2015) elucidates this: “In Africa, music has always been a celebration of the ineradicability of life, in a long life-denying history. It is the genre that has historically expressed, in the most haunting way, our raging desire not only for existence, but more importantly for joy in existence – what we should call the practice of joy before death.”5 The jihadists are also extremely aware that “…music is an expression of cultural power…”6

In an interview with Conversations in Cinema Sissako says of Timbuktu the city, prior to its real-life invasion by Ansa Dine in 2012, “…Timbuktu, back then, [was] an exceptional place full of tolerance and exchange…That was the real Islam. This is why the occupation of Timbuktu by foreigners was so symbolic…”7 This resonates with how African dynasties co-existed with Arabic influences as incipient Islamic states: “From the eighth to the thirteenth century, contact between Muslims and Africans increased and Muslim states began to emerge in the Sahel. Eventually, African kings began to allow Muslims to integrate… [between the West African empires of Ghana and Mali] …Over the next few decades, African rulers began to adopt Islam while ruling over populations with diverse faiths and cultures. Many of these rulers blended Islam with traditional and local practices in what experts call the mixing phase. Over time, the population began to adopt Islam, often selectively appropriating aspects of the faith.”8 In the epoch of epic empires, their integrity was maintained by an understanding that the variegation of people’s religious and cultural identities was the essential vitality of those nations.

timbuktu6

Fela Kuti suggests in his song ‘Water Get No Enemy9 that water is essential to human life, only a fool would dare go without it. Likewise, the people and the body politic are a nation’s lifeblood. They populate the land, power the economy, and preserve its culture. Only a foolish government would fight or antagonise its citizens. To Timbuktu’s misguided insurgents, heterogeneity is the enemy. It is why female wooden statuettes die, and why everyday jeli (meaning ‘blood’ in Maninka) like the young woman, Safia, can be kidnapped into a forced marriage (and implicitly raped) by a would-be ‘suitor’, Abu Jaafar (Damien Ndjie) – a young jihadist, who is rejected by the woman’s mother for not following their local tradition. The agency implied by the Kouroukan Fouga for this society’s lifeblood, and tolerations borne of hybridity suggested by centuries of ‘mixing’10, is so diminished that Safia’s mother cannot intercede on her own behalf in the cause for her daughter. She has no choice but to make her plea through a local ‘moderate’ male Imam.

Women are the final frontier in the ultimate capturing of Timbuktu. They should not be heard, nor should they be seen. An edict is passed prescribing that women should wear gloves and socks. A fishmonger in the market will not wear gloves because it is impractical; she cannot wash her fish. She shouts that she has already been forced to wear the hijab to cover her hair and challenges the wandering militia men to cut off her hands when faced by their pedantry; and before being taken away to face some brutal reprimand. In a scene of increasingly quotidian menace, a young woman ‘decently’ attired in a burqa is arrested by a gang of intimidators who disbelieve her insistence that she was on her mobile phone to her brother. She should not be on the phone at all. Another brave woman (Fatouma Diawara), sentenced to eighty lashes for making music with friends and forced into a hijab, sings in defiance while the mutaween whip her. The film climaxes when Satima (Toulou Kiki), whose contented Tuareg family life is interwoven throughout the film’s tableaux, is killed attempting to rescue her husband, Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed dit Pino), from public execution. Timbuktu’s women’s defiance and resistance makes them defenders of herstory, heritage and culture, linking them again to the jeliya (jeli-ness) tradition that reaches back millennia, where they can be seen being both ‘ngara’ and ‘ngana’,

“…the art of the jeli, finds its most profound and deeply appreciated embodiment in the ngara, a master of extraordinary integrity, knowledge and skill…The ngara, whose field of play is speech and music, has a complement in the ngana, a hero whose field of play is action. The complementary relationship between speech and action – between the ngara and ngana – and the similar social forces that motivate them are fundamental aspects of Maninka social and creative thought and practice.”11

Sissako crystallises this latter thought in describing the reality of Timbuktu’s women being both, special rapporteur and social justice activist, and also fundamental to the health and wellbeing of their communities: “In all societies, women are stronger than men. This is more obvious in situations of crisis. It is them that hold everything together…Men tend to drop their pants.”12

timbuktu11

Manthia Diawara encapulates with simplicity, the ironical nature of the kind of imperialist engagement being explored in this essay: “Timbuktu depicts the arrival of a fundamentalist and absolutist Islam in that famed city, which, one notes, had converted to Islam nearly a millennium ago and has for centuries served as a meeting point of the cultures and civilizations of Northern and sub-Saharan Africa.”13 The jihadists have a singular view of Islam and jihad and speak to a schism between the ancient and the modern, as if both are fixed, one good, the other bad. These intransigent designations are the twin terrors of colonisers, demagogues and those with hegemonic power. Imposed but not necessarily followed, they expose inconstancy and hypocrisy. “…Besides being addicted to cruelty and bullying, these partisans are enslaved to their modern devices such as mobile phones, cars, video cameras…and of course weapons…”14

Abdelkerim (Abel Jafri), one of the jihadist leaders, visits Satima (not for the first time) timing it so that Kidane is away. Abdelkerim clearly covets her, (his visit is ‘haram’) but he chides her for having her hair uncovered, saying it is “indecent”. However, she is in the middle of washing it and no-one would be present to see her if he had not driven out into the desert to insinuate himself into her story; she dryly tells him as much. Yet, glove-less fishmongers, young women on the phone to their brothers and people who have families outside of wedlock are guilty of ‘indecency,’ and are beaten and stoned to death; but Abdelkarim’s illicit smoking and his colleague’s outlawed dancing are classed as guilty pleasures. “…Timbuktu is no longer tombouctu la mystérieuse, the magical place of legend, but a harsh, grim, unforgiving place of bigotry and fear.”15

timbuktu7

Since the time of Sunjata, Timbuktu has practised an intersectional Islam, understanding that the ancient and modern are part of a continuum that reflects and informs itself, and not a static inward, blinkered and illusory binary state. The jeli tradition again explains why everyday jelis and the city resist the invaders: “…Traditional and modern in a Mande context do not refer to opposing sides of battle with impenetrable lines, or to blind adherence to colonial lexical categories and mentalities, but rather reflect states of mind that can be fluidly combined and respected in innovative and often humorous ways.”16 Olivier-Jean Tchouaffe analysis of Sissako’s work suggests a way of being that mirrors jeliya: “Sissako’s films participate in these new ceremonies. His cinema synthesises related themes of tradition and ancient mythologies and contemporary forms of alternative African rationalities. These new forms negotiate spaces for optical and sound waves as a new prophetic tradition made flesh and forms of knowledge against conventional realism and into the eyes and ears of African history that reflect the real formation of an extra-cinematic political subjectivity in Africa…”17 and “…Hence, the capacity of the camera-eye is to operate as a cultural resource to produce and create alterity and therefore an expression of democracy as opposed to theocratic regimes that consider image production as the source of idolatry and iconoclastic practices.”18

Timbuktu16

It is the rash conflict between two men, Kidane and Amadou (Omar Haidara), that escalates from impatience to tragedy, that has negative repercussions for women. Amadou fed up with constantly having to warn Issan (Mehdi A.G. Mohamed), cowherd for and nephew of Kidane, to mind his fishing nets, kills Kidane’s prize cow, GPS, when it transgresses one time too many. Kidane, incensed by yet another ‘humiliation’ goes to confront Amadou, with a concealed gun that Satima warns him against taking, and accidently kills him. The Director may be subtly suggesting that the conditions of this conflict, poverty, Saharan Desert creep, water scarcity and Tuareg-African ethnic and cultural tensions, are the same that bred Islamic extremism, “Why struggle with cowherds and fishnets when you can just grab a Kalashnikov, interpret the Quran in a different way, and strut around as the ruler of one of the world’s most iconic cities?”19 Kendrick Lamar puts this another way, ‘Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst‘.20

Importantly and more profoundly, the wise counsel of Satima is left to fade – effaced by male obliviousness to external factors and to a broader context, just as in the European colonial project “griottes seemed to fade into the background of the outsiders’ focus on the continent…”21 As a result, Amadou’s mother is inconsolable and cannot forgive, Satima dies, her daughter Toya (Layla Walet Mohamed) is left an orphan, running through the desert alone, women are jailed in large numbers and the fate of the rest of Timbuktu’s citizenry is uncertain. What becomes apparent is the authenticity and status of jelimuso (griottes) as repositories, conveners and conveyors of herstory, culture and tradition; they are the front liners in African-Arabic schism of Timbuktu and truly, declaratively, despite what a jihadist leader proclaims on their own behalf, “…the guardians of everything.”

“She’s got a paradise camouflage
Like a whip-crack sending me shivers
She’s a boat through a strip-mine ocean
Riding low on the drunken rivers

She’s alone in the new pollution
She’s alone in the new pollution”22


I look forward to your musical responses to this mixtape. Click here for a full track listing.

END

 

Notes

i. Linguists have used the term “Mande” over the past century in grand classification schemes to refer to a major Niger-Congo language branch spoken by peoples in perhaps a dozen or more countries.
(Mande Music: Traditional and Modern Music Of The Maninka and Mandinka Of Western Africa, Eric Charry, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637, ISBN-10: 0-226-10162-2, Published 2000 p.xxi)

ii. Griot, Mande jeli or jali, Wolof gewel, West African troubadour-historian. The griot profession is hereditary and has long been a part of West African culture. The griots’ role has traditionally been to preserve the genealogies, historical narratives, and oral traditions of their people; praise songs are also part of the griot’s repertoire. Many griots play the kora, a long-necked harp lute with 21 strings. In addition to serving as the primary storytellers of their people, griots have also served as advisers and diplomats. Over the centuries their advisory and diplomatic roles have diminished somewhat, and their entertainment appeal has become more widespread. (https://www.britannica.com/art/griot)

iii. While the presence of Islam in West Africa dates back to eighth century, the spread of the faith in regions that are now the modern states of Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali and Nigeria, was in actuality, a gradual and complex process. Much of what we know about the early history of West Africa comes from medieval accounts written by Arab and North African geographers and historians. Specialists have used several models to explain why Africans converted to Islam. Some emphasise economic motivations, others highlight the draw of Islam’s spiritual message, and a number stress the prestige and influence of Arabic literacy in facilitating state building. While the motivations of early conversions remain unclear, it is apparent that the early presence of Islam in West Africa was linked to trade and commerce with North Africa. Trade between West Africa and the Mediterranean predated Islam, however, North African Muslims intensified the Trans-Saharan trade. North African traders were major actors in introducing Islam into West Africa. Several major trade routes connected Africa below the Sahara with the Mediterranean Middle East, such as Sijilmasa to Awdaghust and Ghadames to Gao. The Sahel, the ecological transition zone between the Sahara desert and forest zone, which spans the African continent, was an intense point of contact between North Africa and communities south of the Sahara. In West Africa, the three great medieval empires of Ghana, Mali, and the Songhay developed in Sahel.

The history of Islam in West Africa can be explained in three stages, containment, mixing, and reform. In the first stage, African kings contained Muslim influence by segregating Muslim communities, in the second stage African rulers blended Islam with local traditions as the population selectively appropriated Islamic practices, and finally in the third stage, African Muslims pressed for reforms in an effort to rid their societies of mixed practices and implement Shariah. This three-phase framework helps sheds light on the historical development of the medieval empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay and the 19th century jihads that led to the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate in Hausaland and the Umarian state in Senegambia.
(The Spread of Islam in West Africa: Containment, Mixing, and Reform from the Eighth to the Twentieth Century, Margari Hill, Stanford University, January 2009, http://spice.fsi.stanford.edu/docs/the_spread_of_islam_in_west_africa_containment_mixing_and_reform_from_the_eighth_to_the_twentieth_century )

iv. Early in the thirteenth century the West African Mande (or Mali) empire was established by the legendary warrior and hero Sunjata and his allies. The Mande homeland (also called Manden or Manding), situated along the Upper Niger River roughly between Bamako in southwestern Mali and Kouroussa in northeastern Guinea, gradually became the center of one of the largest and wealthiest empires in West Africa. At its height in the fourteenth to the sixteenth century the Mande empire extended from Gao in the east and Timbuktu in the north all the way to the Atlantic coast in the west. As the Mande peoples dispersed throughout the West African savannah they assimilated various local cultures and spread their own. Their descendants today make up significant parts of the population of many West African countries: in Mali and Guinea they are known as Maninka (or Malinke in French writing); in Senegal, The Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau they are known as Mandinka (or Mandingo in British writing).
(Mande Music: Traditional and Modern Music Of The Maninka and Mandinka Of Western Africa, Eric Charry, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637, ISBN-10: 0-226-10162-2, Published 2000 p.1)

v. Various kinds of music in the Mande world have been influenced by the long association of Mande peoples with Islam…Islam has shaped and been shaped by local cultures wherever it has taken root.
(Mande Music: Traditional and Modern Music Of The Maninka and Mandinka Of Western Africa, Eric Charry, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637, ISBN-10: 0-226-10162-2, Published 2000 p.22)

vi. Sundiata instituted a universal constitution for all subjects of his new state called the Kouroukan Fouga. At a site just outside the town of Kangba, he formalised the government and established the Gbara or Great Assembly. The Gbara would serve as the Mandinka deliberative body until the collapse fo the Manden Kurufa in 1645. The Kouroukan Fouga state instituted social and economic reforms including prohibitions on the maltreatment of prisoners and slaves, the installation of women in government circles, and placing a governing system between clans. Also, Sundiata divided the lands amongst the people, assuring that everyone had a place in the empire; he also fixed the exchange rates for common products.
(An African Journey Through Its Arts, Fima Lifshitz, AuthorHouse, 2009, p73)

 

References

1, 21, Griots and Griottes – Thomas A. Hale
(Indiana University Press, 601 North Morton Street, Bloomington, Indiana 47404-3797, USA, 2007, p.54, 222)
2, An African Journey Through Its Arts, Fima Lifshitz
(AuthorHouse, 2009, p.73)
3, When We Ruled – Robin Walker
(Reklaw Education Ltd, ISBN: 978-0-99310-200-4, Second Edition, 2013)
4, African Music, A People’s Art, Francis Bebey,
(Lawrence Hill Books. Brooklyn, NY. 1969, 1975)
5, The Value of Africa’s Aesthetics – Achille Mbembe,
(Mail and Guardian, May 15. http://mg.co.za.)
6, Dr. Pascal Bokar Thiam: “From Timbuktu to the Mississippi Delta: How West African Standards of Aesthetics Shaped the Music of the Delta Blues”
(Talks at Google, Published 10th July 2017,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69TRnKHNhHY)
7, 12, Interview with Abderrahmane Sissako by Watersed,
(Conversations about Cinema, 28th May 2015, http://www.conversationsaboutcinema.co.uk/ioc/timbuktu/671/a-film-is-a-conversation-interview-with-abderrahmane-sissako/)
8, 10, The Spread of Islam in West Africa: Containment, Mixing, and Reform from the Eighth to the Twentieth Century, Margari Hill, Stanford University, January 2009, (http://spice.fsi.stanford.edu/docs/the_spread_of_islam_in_west_africa_containment_mixing_and_reform_from_the_eighth_to_the_twentieth_century )
9, Water Get No Enemy by Fela Kuti
(Expensive Shit, LP Album, Soundworkshop Records, SWS 1001, Nigeria, 1975)
11, 16, Mande Music: Traditional and Modern Music Of The Maninka and Mandinka Of Western Africa – Eric Charry,
(The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637, ISBN-10: 0-226-10162-2, Published 2000 p.54, 24)
13, Frames of Resistance: Manthia Diawara On The Films Of Abderrahmane Sissako
(Artforum, January 2015)
14, 15, Timbuktu review – a cry from the heart – Peter Bradshaw
(The Guardian, Thursday 28 May 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/28/timbuktu-review-abderrahmane-sissako-africa)
17, 18, The Poetics of Radical Hope in Abderrahmane Sissako’s Film Experience – Olivier-Jean Tchouaffe
(Lexington Books, ISBN-10: 1498539815, ISBN-13: 978-1498539814, 28 April 2017, p.7, 140)
19, Ethics on Film: Discussion of “Timbuktu” – Alex Woodson
(Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, 25th February 2015, https://www.carnegiecouncil.org/publications/ethics_onfilm/0015)
20, Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst by Kendrick Lamar
(Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, LP Album, Top Dawg Entertainment, Aftermath Entertainment, Interscope Records, B0017695-01, US, 2012)
22, The New Pollution by Beck
(Odelay, LP Album, Bong Load Records, BL30, US, 1996)

Bibliography

  1. Griots and Griottes – Thomas A. Hale
    (Indiana University Press, 601 North Morton Street, Bloomington, Indiana 47404-3797, USA, 2007)
  2. An African Journey Through Its Arts – Fima Lifshitz
    (AuthorHouse, 2009)
  3. When We Ruled – Robin Walker
    (Reklaw Education Ltd, ISBN: 978-0-99310-200-4, Second Edition, 2013)
  4. African Music, A People’s Art – Francis Bebey,
    (Lawrence Hill Books. Brooklyn, NY. 1969, 1975)
  5. Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu and Its Controversial Reception – Phyllis Taoua
    (African Studies Review, Volume 58, Number 2, September 2015, pp. 270-278 (Review))
  6. The Value of Africa’s Aesthetics – Achille Mbembe,
    (Mail and Guardian, May 2015. http://mg.co.za.)
  7. Interview with ABDERRAHMANE SISSAKO by Watershed,
    (Conversations about Cinema, 28th May 2015, http://www.conversationsaboutcinema.co.uk/ioc/timbuktu/671/a-film-is-a-conversation-interview-with-abderrahmane-sissako/)
  8. The Spread of Islam in West Africa: Containment, Mixing, and Reform from the Eighth to the Twentieth Century – Margari Hill, Stanford University, January 2009, (http://spice.fsi.stanford.edu/docs/the_spread_of_islam_in_west_africa_containment_mixing_and_reform_from_the_eighth_to_the_twentieth_century )
  9. Mande Music: Traditional and Modern Music Of The Maninka and Mandinka Of Western Africa – Eric Charry,
    (The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637, ISBN-10: 0-226-10162-2, Published 2000)
  10. Frame of Resistance: Manthia Diawara On The Films Of Abderrahmane Sissako
    (Artforum, January 2015)
  11. Timbuktu review – a cry from the heart – Peter Bradshaw
    (The Guardian, Thursday 28 May 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/28/timbuktu-review-abderrahmane-sissako-africa)
  12. The Poetics of Radical Hope in Abderrahmane Sissako’s Film Experience – Olivier-Jean Tchouaffe
    (Lexington Books, ISBN-10: 1498539815, ISBN-13: 978-1498539814, 28 April 2017)
  13. The Rough Guide to World Music: African & Middle East, Vol 1 of 3
    (Rough Guides, ISBN 13: 978-1-84353-551-5, ISBN 10: 1-843-53551-3 September 2006)
  14. Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu Is Shattering by David Edelstein
    (The Vulture, 28 January 2015, http://www.vulture.com/2015/01/movie-review-timbuktu.html)
  15. Deep Focus: Timbuktu by Michael Sragow
    (Film Comment, 29th January 2015, https://www.filmcomment.com/blog/review-timbuktu-abderrahmane-sissako/)
  16. Review: Timbuktu by Elisabeth Lequeret
    (Film Comment, Issue: January-February 2015, https://www.filmcomment.com/article/review-timbuktu-abderrahmane-sissako/)
  17. Timbuktu review – defiant song of a nation in peril – Jonathan Romney
    (The Guardian, 31st May 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/31/timbuktu-mali-isis-review-abderrahmane-sissako)
  18. Timbuktu, film review: Satire combined with lyricism and a sense of mounting tragedy – Geoffre Macnab
    (The Independent, 28th May 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/timbuktu-film-review-satire-combined-with-lyricism-and-a-sense-of-mounting-tragedy-10282921.html)
  19. Timbuktu by Chris Cabin
    (Slant, 1st October 2014, https://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/timbuktu)
  20. Film Review: Timbuktu – Tola Ositelu
    (Afropean, 29th September 2015, http://afropean.com/film-review-timbuktu/)
  21. Ethics on Film: Discussion of “Timbuktu” – Alex Woodson
    (Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, 25th February 2015, https://www.carnegiecouncil.org/publications/ethics_onfilm/0015)
  22. Timbuktu first-look review: an eloquent and complex Malian j’accuse – Geoff Andrew
    (Sight and Sound, Updated 24th May 2017, http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/reviews-recommendations/cannes-2014-crying-timbuktu)
  23. Film Review: Timbuktu
    (Cinemagic, 3rd June 2015, http://www.cinemagic.org.uk/blog/film-reviewtimbuktu)
  24. Timbuktu – Review by David Ehrlich
    (Little White Lies, 29th May 2015, http://lwlies.com/reviews/timbuktu/)
  25. Abderrahmane Sissako’s film Timbuktu complicates the Jihadist narrative – Andrew Hernann
    (Africa Is A Country, 9th February 2015, http://africasacountry.com/2015/02/abderrahmane-sissakos-film-timbuktu-complicates-the-jihadist-narrative/)
  26. Timbuktu: Sequence Analysis
    (A World of Film, 11th March 2017, https://aworldoffilm.com/2017/03/11/timbuktu-sequence-analysis/)
  27. “Timbuktu”: A timely African film on Islam – and a spectacular breakthrough – Andrew O’Hehir
    (Salon, 30th January 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/01/30/timbuktu_a_timely_african_film_on_islam_and_a_spectacular_breakthrough/)
  28. Abderrahmane Sissako’s ‘Timbuktu’ (2014): Film Africa, Review by African in Words Guest, Sarah Jilani
    (Africain Words, 15th November 2014, https://africainwords.com/2014/11/15/abderrahmane-sissakos-timbuktu-2014-film-africa-review/)
  29. London Film Festival Review: Religion Unites With Hypocrisy in Abderrahmane Sissako’s ‘Timbuktu’ – Wendy Okoi-Obuli
    (Indiewire, 9th October 2014 http://www.indiewire.com/2014/10/london-film-festival-review-religion-unites-with-hypocrisy-in-abderrahmane-sissakos-timbuktu-157764/ )
  30. Griots – Mali’s Historians and Musicians – Robin Edward Poulton
    (Virginia Friends of Mali (website), http://vafriendsofmali.org/education/teaching-timbuktu/teaching-the-community/griots-malis-historians-and-musicians/)

Video

The Lost Libraries of Timbuktu
A BBC Production, 2009.
In the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu, thousands of scientific and religious texts have been hidden for centuries. This program examines the rich history and variety of Timbuktu’s lost libraries. Scholars from across Africa and the Western world elucidate how valuable these fragile treasures are to our knowledge of Africa, Islam, and the growth of literacy outside the Western tradition. The program also asks: how differently would Africa have developed if the libraries hadn’t been forced underground by colonial interests?
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzBCl9kcdqc)

Dr. Pascal Bokar Thiam: “From Timbuktu to the Mississippi Delta”
Talks at Google, Published 10th July 2017
From Timbuktu to the Mississippi Delta: How West African Standards of Aesthetics Shaped the Music of the Delta Blues
Pascal Bokar Thiam was born in Paris, France, and raised in France and in Senegal, has a Master’s Degree from Cambridge College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a Doctorate Degree in Education with honors from the University of San Francisco, CA. In this talk, Dr. Thiam explores the influences of West African music on the music of the Mississippi Delta, tracing the origins of blues, jazz, bluegrass, swing, funk, and other American musical styles. He discusses how music evolves over time and across cultures and how it impacts our culture and history.
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69TRnKHNhHY)

African History Timbuktu Journey To The Empire Of Knowledge
Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick, Published 27th March 2011
Timbuktu with its thousands of manuscripts and its deep legacy destroys racist notions of Black inferiority and educational backwardness. Timbuktu gives solid proof of a powerful African past and an unbroken chain of African scholarship. Timbuktu also brings out Islam’s great legacy of development in Africa and its proper place in the annals of African achievement. It’s well preserved lessons of spirituality and peace making may very well hold some of the answers to today’s complex problems of war and never ending conflict.
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LN5D_ZGPuZc)

Talk to Al Jazeera – Abderrahmane Sissako: ‘The Islam of Timbuktu was taken hostage’
Al Jazeera English, Published on Aug 29, 2015
Abderrahmane Sissako, one of Africa’s most prominent filmmakers, talks to Al Jazeera about his artistic vision and intentions behind his films, religion, events in Mali, and the future of the continent. Mauritanian filmmaker’s latest movie,Timbuktu, talks about occupation, resistance, extremism, and above all, about humans, including fighters in all their moral complexity.
(https://youtu.be/T7JLtSbjC8c)

DP/30: Timbuktu, Abderrahmane Sissako
Published 10th November 2014
Timbuktu is an intimate portrait of seemingly simple lives that are complicated by all the moral and emotional choices that we all make. The filmmaker, Abderrahmane Sissako, talks about the film (in French) with David Poland.
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vErZ1bauX2g)

Timbuktu Interview With Director Abderrahmane Sissako
Into Film, 16th December 2015
Reporter Dylan talks to Mauritanian filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako about war drama Timbuktu which takes a look at the brief occupation of the North Bali region by militant Islamic rebels. Timbuktu is a poignant exploration of the effects that war and extremism can have on a civilian population. Watch Abderrahmane talk about the stylish approach he took to filming some of Timbuktu’s tougher scenes and why he feels his story should be seen by a wider audience.
(https://www.intofilm.org/news-and-views/articles/timbuktu-interview)

Music

Water Get No Enemy by Fela Kuti
(Expensive Shit, LP Album, Soundworkshop Records, SWS 1001, Nigeria, 1975)

Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst by Kendrick Lamar
(Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, LP Album, Top Dawg Entertainment, Aftermath Entertainment, Interscope Records, B0017695-01, US, 2012)

The New Pollution by Beck
(Odelay, LP Album, Bong Load Records, BL30, US, 1996)

Production

Directed: Abderrahmane Sissako
Produced: Sylvie Pialat, Étienne Comar
Written: Abderrahmane Sissako, Kessen Tall
Music: Amine Bouhafa
Cinematography: Sofian El Fani
Edited: Nadia Ben Rachid
Production company: Arte France Cinéma, Canal+, Ciné+, CNC, TV5 Monde
Running time: 96 minutes
Released: 2014
Country: Mauritania, France
Language: Arabic, French, Tamasheq, Bambara

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