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Ancient Manuscripts and Writing Systems in Africa

An exhibition on ancient manuscripts and writing opens December 17, 2009. United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

African and international cultural heritage institutions as well as multilateral organizations will fully participate in the operationalization of this most comprehensive exposition of Africa’s endogenous writing systems and ancient manuscripts (from the highest antiquity to the XIXth century), thus, dispelling the unfair myth that Africa never produced written historical records.

This international exhibition will be travelling throughout Africa and the world. The following countries will be targeted: Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Ghana, Great Britain, Japan, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, South Africa, and the United States.

The exhibition will cover the following areas: 1) Evolution of Africa’s writing systems (rocks, cave paintings, parchments, scrolls, papyrus, and paper); 2) Presentation of ancient manuscripts from a wide range of African countries dating back 4,000 years to the XIXth century; 3) Presentation of relevant original or copied ancient manuscripts, photographs, and artifacts; 4) Demonstrations of calligraphic skills by African crafts men and women; and 5) Sale of copies of ancient manuscripts and rare books provided by participant private libraries as well as some of the latest books published on Africa’s ancient manuscripts and history. A selected number of librarians and crafts men and women will be sponsored so that they can showcase their ancient
manuscripts and artifacts.

This exhibition will be held in conjunction with the International Conference on Preserving Africa’s Ancient Manuscripts. For more information, please visit

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  • Kindly rectify the dates for the Conference. The correct dates are 17-19 December 2010 in Addis Ababa at the Economic Commission for Africa. Invited participants will be met at the Addis Ababa airport.

    Professor Habib Sy, Ph.D
    Conference General Coordinator

    By Sy on 12/11/2009
  • Dear Sir/Madam

    I look forward immensely to your arrival in South Africa. Do you know when that will be ? Ancient African scripts are my grand passion and to this end I have pursued a degree in linguistics, and I am starting on a Thesis on Khoekhoe petroglyphs at this very moment. I think it is important to promote the study of such manuscripts in our region also, perhaps by starting an interdisciplinary institute for studying them at UCT, and I am prepared to put a lot of energy into such a drive, I wish the Timbuktu project (Mali / South Africa project) could be extended, or form a sister organization to include non-Arabic forms too. I am interested in ideogrammatic systems especially. Though they may not be glottographic the different forms of cognition involved are absolutely fascinating. I implore you to please put me on your mailing list so that I may attend your next conference.

    in gratitude, and delighted by this incredible progress in the promotion of African writing systems

    Caroline Kloppert

    By caroline kloppert on 17/12/2010