Writing not on the wall for calligraphy

19 August 2009

If, initially, the Tombouctou Manuscripts Projects of the Department of Historical Studies concentrated on the content of the manuscripts - the scholarship, the ideas - then a recent exhibition at the Gold of Africa Museum in Cape Town took that a step further. From Istanbul to Timbuktu, an exhibition of original works by master calligraphers from Turkey, Egypt, Morocco and Mali, focused instead on the Timbuktu written tradition and the writing itself. The exhibition aimed to place West African manuscripts in the broader Islamic calligraphic tradition. Today, still, the copying of medieval and modern manuscripts continues unabated, and calligraphy is seen as a contemporary art form, works showcased in galleries and sold to private collectors.

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