Mali is struggling to save priceless cultural artifacts from traffickers who are destroying the country’s most precious cultural heritage. The traffickers who steal, and then sell rare works to collectors are targeting Bamako National Museum, which holds many important artifacts from Timbuktu and Gao. The museum has the most precious cultural artifacts, which detail the social, cultural and religius history of Malians, and works on iconic Islamic king Mansa Kankan Musa.
The Timbuktu treasures are of great cultural significance especially to traders and scholars travelling through the Sahara desert. The demand for antiquities from the region is high in Europe and Mexico, and sophisticated smugglers are threatening to wipe out the treasures of one of the Africa’s most valued cultural heritages in history.
At the Bamako Museum, a number of the country’s precious cultural treasures are protected by the government, but a group of Jihadists Islamic militants from the north have raided the museum several times since 2012 terrorist attacks with intention to loot and destroy these artifacts which include some of the irreplaceable medieval manuscripts.
“Since the conflict began in Mali, there are entire regions, particularly in the Sahel, where the state no longer has any authority and where acts of looting have become completely rife. For example, in an area called Ouenza one or two years ago, there was a huge raid at an archaeological site and there was no real action we could take against the looters,” Samuel Sidibé, Director of the National Museum of Mali, told FRANCE 24.
The most treasured collection of manuscripts
Since 14th century, contemporary scholars consider Timbuktu’s Arabic-language of 350,000 manuscripts to be among the glories of the medieval Islamic world, which has been considered essential in spreading of Islamic ideologies worldwide.
The volume of the 350,000 manuscripts includes books of poetry, Koran, history and scholarly treaties. These manuscripts have been passed from generations to generations as the merchants from different parts of Africa and Arab world traded the literary treasures in Timbuktu’s markets. Most of these manuscripts reveal how Timbuktu was a centre of scientific inquiry and religious tolerance, and an intellectual hub that drew scholars from across the Islamic world.