Mali Restores Its Cultural Heritage With Partnership From UN

Mali Restores Its Cultural Heritage With Partnership From UN

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Mausoleum located in the middle of the UNESCO protected site. Photo: UNESCO

Two of the World Heritage mausoleums destroyed in Timbuktu have now been rebuilt through a partnership with local communities, the United Nations cultural agency said, adding that it will need an additional $8 million to finish the rehabilitation of the site and of libraries that could again store hundreds of thousands of Malian manuscripts.

“We are looking for $11 million,” UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Representative to Mali, Lazare Eloudou Assomo, said in New York.

The UN agency has been able to gather around $3 million through bilateral cooperation and other funding, he said, but “if we don’t have the $8 million, it would be difficult for us to implement our activities.”

Timbuktu was an economic, intellectual and spiritual capital and a centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa during the city’s golden age in the 15th and 16th centuries. According to UNESCO, the three mosques and the 16 mausoleums comprising the property are part of the fabled city that once numbered 100,000 inhabitants.

The site was heavily destroyed by occupying extremists after fighting broke out in January 2012 between Government forces and Tuareg rebels. The conflict uprooted hundreds of thousands of people and prompted the Malian Government to request assistance from France to stop the military advance of extremist groups.

In March, local masons working under the supervision of Imam of Djingareyber, and with support from UNESCO and the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), which is mandated in part to support the Government in cultural preservation, laid the first earthen brick to reconstruct two of the mausoleums.

“It’s a long and complex task. The monuments look very simple in their architecture but they are complex structures,” said Mr. Assomo, who spoke alongside Vibeke Jensen, Director of the UNESCO Office in New York.

Reconstruction work, Timbuktu (Mali). Photo: UNESCO

Reconstruction work, Timbuktu (Mali). Photo: UNESCO

Reconstruction work, Timbuktu (Mali). Photo: UNESCO

Reconstruction work, Timbuktu (Mali). Photo: UNESCO

Official launch of reconstruction of World Heritage mausoleums in Timbuktu (Mali). Photo: MINUSMA/Marco Domino

Official launch of reconstruction of World Heritage mausoleums in Timbuktu (Mali). Photo: MINUSMA/Marco Domino

Reconstruction of World Heritage mausoleums starts in Timbuktu (Mali) - Mali’s Minister of Culture, Bruno Maiga is welcomed at airport. Photo: MINUSMA/Marco Domino

Reconstruction of World Heritage mausoleums starts in Timbuktu (Mali) – Mali’s Minister of Culture, Bruno Maiga is welcomed at airport. Photo: MINUSMA/Marco Domino

Official launch of reconstruction of World Heritage mausoleums in Timbuktu (Mali). Photo: MINUSMA/Marco Domino

Official launch of reconstruction of World Heritage mausoleums in Timbuktu (Mali). Photo: MINUSMA/Marco Domino

David Gressly, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations. Photo: MINUSMA/Marco Domino

David Gressly, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations. Photo: MINUSMA/Marco Domino

West wing of Djingareyber mausoleum (Mali). MINUSMA/Marco Domino

West wing of Djingareyber mausoleum (Mali). MINUSMA/Marco Domino

Imam Essayout (Djingareyber). Photo: DNPC/Bagayoko

Reconstruction of World Heritage mausoleums starts in Timbuktu (Mali). Photo: MINUSMA/Marco Domino

Reading of the Koran preceding the launch of reconstruction - Timbuktu (Mali). Photo: UNESCO

Reading of the Koran preceding the launch of reconstruction – Timbuktu (Mali). Photo: UNESCO

Women dancing next to the site, in Mali. UN Photo/Thierry Joffroy,

Women dancing next to the site, in Mali. UN Photo/Thierry Joffroy

Head of UNESCO in Mali Lazare Eloundou (left) speaks with a community leader during a UNESCO delegation's visit to the Tomb of Askia, UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Gao, Northern Mali. UN Photo/Marco Dormino

Head of UNESCO in Mali Lazare Eloundou (left) speaks with a community leader during a UNESCO delegation’s visit to the Tomb of Askia, UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Gao, Northern Mali. UN Photo/Marco Dormino

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In addition to their historical significance for the world, the site is entwined with the cultural and social fabric of the city and communities who live there. Each of the 16 mausoleums is the responsibility of a specific family who serves as its “custodian.”

“It is not only about rebuilding stones. It is also about keeping culture significant,” he stressed. Reconstructing the site has already contributed to “a kind of environment to foster peace reconciliation and social cohesion.”

In addition to the mausoleums, the plans include renovations of private libraries and sites to hold the estimated 300,000 manuscripts that were saved and temporarily secured in Bamako.

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