Across Timbuktu, in cupboards, rusting chests, private collections and libraries, tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of manuscripts bear witness to this legendary city’s remarkable intellectual history, and by extension, to Africa’s much overlooked pre-colonial heritage.
“This is the proof,” said Mr Boularaf.
“Africa was not wild before the white man came. In fact, if you will excuse the expression, it was the colonising that was wild.”
Ahmed Saloum Boularaf has been caring for documents for years
But this unique literary evidence is under threat, as time, the elements, and a simple lack of resources take their toll in northern Mali.
“We are losing manuscripts every day. We lack the financial means to catalogue and protect them,” said Mr Boularaf, who recently rescued his collection from the rubble of a mud building next door that collapsed after a rainstorm.