Well, it has to be one of the most glamorous dinner parties I have ever been to. A private dining room at the Aqua Shard restaurant, on the 31st floor of this iconic building- the most spectacular of views of course, and the most charming company- here I am sitting next to Patricia Simmons, and Tim(?)
Champagne and Canapes upon arrival, exquisite wine flowing dinner and excellent company. And why do I find myself in such elevated company and surroundings?
Father Columba was in London with the Board of HMML- (Hill Museum and Manuscript Library) and I , as I am now officially an employee (part time of course) of this venerable Minnesota Institution, I was invited and had a lovely time!
The Board of the HMML were all very successful people- captains of industry and the cream of Minneapolis and Minnesota society. The sort of people I would have expected, in the past at least, to be Republican. But no... I was assured by my charming and handsome table companion, a representative of those well-groomed semi-retired people who 'sits on boards', that there was probably not a single Republican in the whole group. He was unable to utter the name 'Trump' without visible embarrassment.
They were all very interested in the work in Timbuktu and had been briefed of our various adventures by Father Columba. Indeed there does seems to be something dramatic happening every time we travel there together...the next time will be in December.
Most of the Board members had been to Washington to see Father Columba giving the prestigious Jefferson Lecture a couple of weeks ago. He followed the footsteps of some great luminaries, Tony Morrison for one. If you scroll 41 minutes in on this link you will get to the lecture itself: https://www.facebook.com/nehgov/videos/515056039284692/
And speaking of manuscripts (which was of course the main subject matter of Fr. Columba's lecture) , the picture below shows a page from an interesting manuscript from the Imam Essayouti Library in Timbuktu. The writer is called Ahmad bn Bindad al Masini, and he describes - partly in verse- a great earthquake on 29 Muharram 1116H., which is 1755 Gregorian. We had a similar manuscript in Djenne:
It is undoubtedly referring to the Great Lisbon earthquake, which was felt as far as Timbuktu and Djenne!
And last week it was the last time I had to check through the EXCEL documents that give a short description of each manuscript that is digitized. I have been doing this task for ten years now- for the four Djenne projects and for the project in Timbuktu. The EAP (Endangered Archives Programme of the British Library ) has now stopped their involvement with the Timbuktu project and I am preparing the final report for them although the project is continuing of course, with HMML). The reading of these descriptions has been one of the most entertaining of the tasks in my work, and it never fails to make me chuckle, to tantalize me to know more and to realize how close we all are in our preoccupations and desires, although our circumstances may differ greatly. Here is a little taster from the EXCEL sheet:
Document concerning how to find riches, to be loved and to bewitch women.
Correspondence in which the writer testifies to the sale or loan of a camel.
Esoteric manuscript for protection against hitting, and how to make a woman a virgin.
Document that attests the setting free of a slave
A correspondence written by Ahmad bn Abubacar bn Muhammad al-Sayd to Muhammad bn Abuba informing him of the arrival of the whites and that the religion does not allow colonist cohabitation.
This document attests that Hameye Shaban bn Nafakoy has bought his sister's two children, probably to free them from slavery.
A fatwa on the following case: man get married but after three days he becomes aware that his wife is pregnant. After the divorce she gave birth. Decree on what will the future of the child and the dowry.
Correspondence from Sān Shirfi to Prince Ḥamīd on a problem of slavery.
A fatwa on the case of a woman who falls pregnant in the absence of her husband.
Regards medicine, witchcraft and a solution for curing stomach aches.
Escoteric science that deals with giving longevity to a horse.
This manuscript is based on how to avoid the excess of desire of man towards woman; also the difference between two desires; that for woman and that for prayer.
A manuscript of Theology concerning faithfulness; believing in God, the attributes of God, the existence of God and how to catch a thief.
Dream interpretation divided into sub-chapters, citing an example: If someone sees a black woman in a dream he will not get what he wants, but he must offer a white colanut as sacrifice.
And on it goes... I find it fascinating to read these short explanations on the content of the manuscripts!