Grantee Spotlight: Timbuktu Renaissance

Courtesty of the Guardian, See also: “Timbuktu Renaissance counters Mali’s jihadists” on The Democracy Digest


Islamists banned their music. Now Timbuktu is singing again.

Gold jewellery glinting, robes changing from blue to green under the lights, the diva of Timbuktu sang of Allah, salt mines and camels. Her audience sat silently around a courtyard, watching, listening, giving nothing away.

Then, as she began Sourgou, her haunting Tuareg song, two men who could no longer contain their joy leapt on stage with her. They began to dance, crowns of charms around their heads, streaming turbans following their swooping movements.

Khaira Arby had been away from home for a long time, but on a Tuesday last month, she brought her music back to Timbuktu, the legendary Malian city of poetry and learning that has, in recent years, been silenced by a prolonged and complex conflict.

Hers was the first of a series of monthly concerts to be put on by Timbuktu Renaissance, an organisation whose mission is to bring the town’s people back together through culture.

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