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Science Museum Hosts One Day Exhibit of Rare African Manuscripts

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Buffalo will be among the first to get a rare look at six rediscovered manuscripts from ancient Africa. The Buffalo Science Museum is hosting the one-day only preview Friday of "The Legacy of Timbuktu: Wonders of the Written Word."

Buffalo was chosen as one of the first sites to preview what promises to be a world class, traveling exhibit." But it was almost purely by accident. When a friend asked Malikah Muhammad to offer her home to traveling guests, she didn't realize the priceless luggage that came with them.

"She was talking really fast, and I was on my way to work, and I said, no problem," said Muhammad. "But I didn't know I was saying no problem to a preview exhibit, which consisted of manuscripts coming out of Africa, along with these guests."

The six rare manuscripts are from Timbuktu in Mali. And they date back as far as the 11th century. Unearthed after generations hidden in the sand, the manuscripts offer a comprehensive view of ancient African culture, ranging from medicine and music, to literature and interpretations of the Holy Quran. Muhammad, who is coordinator for the exhibit, says the rediscovered manuscripts dispel the myth that Africa was illiterate.

"One thing that we do recognize about Africa is Egypt and what Egypt had to offer. But all throughout parts of Africa, people were studying words and using the written word to go into medicine and astronomy, mathematics and all other types of sciences," said Muhammad. "And actually Timbuktu in Mali was a great place of learning, so people were definitely literate and people from all over the world came there to study."

And Muhhamad says they are hoping people from all over Buffalo will come to the Science Museum to see the manuscripts. Buffalo's response to the preview will determine if the city will be included as a tour stop for the traveling exhibit in 2006.

The one-day only preview is in collaboration with the Langston Hughes Institute. It's free and open to the public Friday at the Science Museum from 10am until 5pm.