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In Mali Magic, Google seeks preservation of Africa’s culture

By Eniola Daniel
13 March 2022   |   3:05 am
Google has launched Mali Magic, a digital treasure trove with the objective of preserving and showcasing Mali’s historic and contemporary art and culture in Africa.


Google has launched Mali Magic, a digital treasure trove with the objective of preserving and showcasing Mali’s historic and contemporary art and culture in Africa.

Google Arts and Culture began the project in 2015, in collaboration with local and international organisations such as, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Savama, Timbuktu Renaissance, Instruments for Africa and the Brooklyn Public Library.

Through Mali Magic, the abundance of ancient learning that is still relevant today is seen in the fields of human rights, morality, politics, astronomy and literature by Malians.

Together with its local partners, Google identified four key pillars of Malian culture – manuscripts, music, monuments and modern art – and worked closely with local communities and experts to digitally document the country’s rich art, architecture, scholarship and musical tradition, and to share stories of its resilience in the face of political struggles with the world.

It also contains more than 50 exhibits, which include the first online, interactive tours of some of Mali’s most significant historic sites, at risk mausoleums and mosques including the Sidi Yahiya and Djinguereber Mosques and the Tomb of Askia, all created using Street View.

Google also worked with artist and musician DJ Spooky (Paul Miller) to create short videos to explore the evolution of storytelling, from West Africa to the American blues. An original album, Maliba, by Malian singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara, produced in Mali and written about the country’s cultural legacy, was created exclusively for the project. The collection also contains a wealth of videos and imagery that capture Mali’s contemporary art scene and profile some of its artists.

Programme Manager and Digital Archaeologist, Google Arts and Culture Chance Coughenour, said: “The Malian city of Timbuktu gave birth to an abundance of learning in the fields of human rights, morality, politics, astronomy and literature captured in thousands of manuscripts. When extremist groups threatened this ancient knowledge in 2012, local communities raced against time to preserve these treasures. The project also involved the digitalisation of over 40,000 endangered manuscripts, which were smuggled to safety during the political unrest in the country.”

“The preservation of global heritage is a huge endeavor. Many experts, NGOs and cultural institutions work in this space and do an incredible job. We are honoured to support our partners with the technology to make their work accessible to people all over the world,” he said.

Dr. Abdel Kader Haidara, known as the badass librarian for smuggling the manuscripts out of Timbuktu, said the manuscripts are more than important historical documents. “Central to the heritage of the West African nation of Mali, they represent the long legacy of written knowledge and academic excellence in Africa, and hold potential to inspire global learning from the actions of the past in confronting modern day issues.”

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