The article describes and analyse the paratextual elements (annotations) in Soninke and Manding languages in the manuscripts from modern-day Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Burkina Faso. It focuses on specific layout of the annotations in relation to the main text, the linking and tagging/labelling techniques applied to connect them to the source text, their linguistic features and other peculiarities.
While the word ʿAjamī traditionally refers to texts in many languages written with the modified Arabic script, the meaning has been expanded in the concept of ʿAjamization used in this volume. ʿAjamization is construed in this article, as it is operationalized in the volume, to refer to the various tangible and subtle enrichments of Islam, its culture, and its written and artistic traditions in Africa.1 In this sense, it is not only the modification (enrichment) of the Arabic script that defines ʿAjamization, but also other features such as the content and the aesthetics of the texts. This paper focuses on the cultural dimension of ʿAjamization in two collections of Ethiopian Islamic texts written in Arabic.2 These texts encompass magic-related materials, including theurgic texts and invocations to jinn.3 I will examine these texts to ascertain whether they reflect a local cosmology, even if they are not written in ʿAjamī but in Arabic.4
So far, studies of West African Arabic manuscripts have paid limited attention to scribes and their social environment. Fuuta Jaloo’s Islamic confederation emerged in the early 1700s as the brainchild of a group of scholars. Thanks to public policies and cultural innovations, its intellectual output and regional diffusion left indelible marks on manuscripts. The article illustrates how much information can be obtained from colophons, marginal notes, and other material elements. Analyzing several versions of a nineteenth-century treatise on astronomy, comments will be made on the diffusion and rendition of manuscripts in Fuuta Jaloo, Fuuta Toro and Maasina.
“Market literature” in Arabic and ʿAjamī is a particular variety of West African Islamic book culture, which is especially strong in northern Nigerian states. Arabic-script “Nithography” (by analogy to Nollywood, the modern Nigerian film industry) represents a unique phenomenon, although it is reminiscent of the nineteenth-century Islamic lithography in the Middle East. Nigerian “market literature” in Arabic and ʿAjamī has mostly followed the pre-colonial manuscript tradition of Central Sudanic Africa, including writing styles, colophons and glosses. In contrast to Middle Eastern book culture, Nigerian typeset printing largely preceded the era of offset. The innovative elements of offset book design in Nigeria and further perspectives of “Nithography” in Arabic and ʿAjamī are discussed.
In the past, sacred Islamic calligraphies were used strictly in sacred places, whereas profane calligraphies were used in secular spheres. However, the trend now among some Hausa artists is to extend the sacred Islamic calligraphic tradition to the social domain. Some Hausa calligraphers do so by “desacralizing” their Islamic-inspired calligraphies. This article deals with the extension of Islamic decorations to secular social domains in Kano, Northern Nigeria. Such works are produced by calligraphers like Sharu Mustapha Gabari. I show how Hausa calligraphers like Mustapha Gabari creatively extend their arts, talents, and skills to other social domains. These domains include the human body, clothing, houses, and other objects. This article describes the ways in which the sacred and the secular realms overlap, and illustrates some key processes of enrichment the Islamic arts have undergone in sub-Saharan Africa. These processes exemplify the ʿAjamization of Islamic arts in Africa, especially how sub-Saharan African Muslims continue to creatively appropriate and enrich the Islamic calligraphic and decorative traditions to fit their local realities and address their preoccupations.