The Paintings of Yelimane Fall: Community, Literacy, and Activism in Islam

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The exhibition The Paintings of Yelimane Fall: Community, Literacy, and Activism in Islam was put together at the West African Research Association. After premiering at Boston University, in winter of 2017 it was exhibited at Lafayette College in Easton, PA. It is now available to be shown at participating institutions, with costs going to support Yelimane Fall/West African Calligraphy Institute and the West African Research Association.

From the exhibition:

Senegalese artist and community activist Yelimane Fall has a unique calligraphic style that reflects a vibrant West African aesthetic. His work draws on the teachings of Shaykh Ahmadou Bamba, the founder of the Mouride Sufi order in Senegal, and focuses on the values of tolerance, self-reliance, and hard work. He also uses Ajami, the Arabic alphabet adapted for writing West African languages, which appeals to wide local audiences throughout West Africa.

The show opens up discussions of Africa, religion, and community, providing a much-needed positive portrayal of the region through modern, familiar, and captivating imagery.

Contact WARA today to learn how you can bring Mr. Fall’s vibrant images to life in your institution.

The Odyssey of Ajami and the Muridiyya


Editorial Reviews

“[T]he book is essential reading for advanced scholars of the Muriýdiyya or Islam in Africa and it will be key to the scholar who constructs the regional odyssey of Ajamiý that is, the sociohistorical emergence of West African vernacular language literacy in Muslim contexts.”–Religious Studies Review

“For those who wish to make sense of recent events in West Africa, Ngom’s book is an excellent place to begin. He corrects many false images of Africa as a continent without writing and demonstrates the dangers of relying exclusively upon oral culture and colonialist-written sources alone. Ngom’s book has set a new standard for African studies.”–Reading Religion

“Fallou Ngom’s Muslims beyond the Arab World is a brilliant demonstration that Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa is not peripheral to a Muslim world centered on Arab societies: it is its own center and has produced throughout the centuries an important literature in Arabic, but also often in ‘Ajami, that is, texts written in the local languages adapting and using the Arabic script. Fallou Ngom’s work is centered on the ‘Ajamization of Islamic sciences and literature by Muslim scholars who authored important texts in Wolof, in poetry and in prose, following the recommendation of Shaykh Ahmadu Bamba, the founder of the Muridiyya Sufi order. Ngom’s book makes manifest that Islam is one and plural, that it speaks Arabic, the language of the Qur’an, but other Islamic languages as well, Wolof being one great example eloquently presented here as a language of written erudition.” -Souleymane Bachir Diagne, author of African Art as Philosophy: Senghor, Bergson and the Idea of Negritude

“This ‘Ajami odyssey makes a signal contribution to the study of Islamic thought in Africa and beyond. Ngom skillfully illustrates how the Muridiyya Sufi order has used African languages materials to make meaning and history, thereby becoming one of the most dynamic Islamic movements in the world today. By focusing on how Murids have articulated and embodied a unique vision of the past deeply rooted in humanistic values of peace, service, and ethics, Ngom also casts precious light on the development of vernacular languages, cultures, and historicities throughout the Muslim world.”-Rudolph T. Ware, Associate Professor of History, University of Michigan

About the Author

Fallou Ngom is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the African Studies Center at Boston University. His research interests include the interactions between African languages and non-African languages, the adaptations of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa, and ‘Ajami literatures-records of African languages written in Arabic script. He has held Fulbright, ACLS/SSRC/NEH, and Guggenheim fellowships.

Archival records from Digital preservation of Wolof Ajami manuscripts of Senegal (EAP334)

From The British Library Endangered Archive Programme:

img-2The project team successfully digitized 5,494 pages, copying 29 manuscripts from 15 collections. The manuscripts primarily consist of Wolofal (Wolof Ajami) materials written by the members of the Muridiyya Sufi order founded in Senegal in 1883. The archival materials remain in the homes of the owners. Three copies were made and have been deposited at WARC (West African Research Center), the British Library and Boston University’s digital repository.

Read online the open access article: Murid Ajami sources of knowledge: the myth and the reality, published in the EAP Anniversary publication From Dust to Digital.

The records copied by this project have been catalogued as:

  • EAP334/1 Fallou Ngom Collection
  • EAP334/2 Serigne Ndiame Diajkhate Collection
  • EAP334/3 Amdy Moustapha Seck Collectionimg-3
  • EAP334/4 Serigne Mbaye Diakhate Siradji Collection
  • EAP334/5 Serigne Mouhammadou Masokhna Lo Collection
  • EAP334/6 Serigne Mbaye Nguirane Collection
  • EAP334/7 Mor Awa Thiobane Collection
  • EAP334/8 Mouhammadou Makhtar Mbodj Collection
  • EAP334/9 Cheikh Fall Kayre Collection
  • EAP334/10 Serigne Bassirou Kane Collection
  • EAP334/11 Cheikh Lo Collection
  • EAP334/12 Birane Gassama Collection
  • EAP334/13 Serigne Abdoulaye Sarr Collection
  • EAP334/14 Serigne Mame Mor Kayre Collection
  • EAP334/15 Baye Cherif Ndiaye Collection

West African Arabic Manuscript Database

A database/union catalogue of Arabic and Arabic-script writing from West Africa.

What is AMMS?

[The Arabic Manuscript Management System]


AMMS is a bi-lingual database that was originally developed at the University of Illinois in the late 1980s to describe a collection of Arabic manuscripts in southern Mauritania (Boutilimit). Subsequently, seven other West African collections have been entered, including the manuscript libraries at the Institut Mauritanien de Recherche Scientifique, Nouakchott; Northwestern University; the original hand-list of manuscripts at the IHERIAB (Centre Ahmad Baba) repository in Timbuktu; the library of al-Hajj `Umar conserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; and a number of print catalogues from West Africa published by al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation. For more information on the activities and publications of the Foundation and these catalogues visit Additional collections are being added to further enhance the data base as both a resource and an authority file for the identification of manuscripts.

The database is comprised of five interactive data sets: the manuscript records, their authors, the authors’ nisbas, subjects, and the collections themselves. It has a search engine designed to identify manuscripts and authors when only fragmentary information is available, in Arabic or Latin characters. Experimental linkage of digital images of manuscript texts to the records is currently underway.

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Manuscript collections included: Boutilimit Ahl Sidiyya 1992 cat.
Ghana Northwestern U. 2008
Ibadan Furqan cat. # 37, 2001
Kano Northwestern U. 1991
Niamey IRSH 1979 cat.
Nouakchott IMRS 1992 cat.
Segou CNRS 1985 cat.
Shinqit Furqan cat. # 7, 1997
Timbuktu CEDRAB 1991
Wadan Furqan cat. # 7, 1997
ALA V Arabic Literature of Africa series, volume 5

The database and the AMMS cataloguing input tool are publicly available at no cost to users. Manuscript curators interested in using the input system developed for AMMS are encouraged to write to the editors to request access to data input forms. Thirty-odd fields in Arabic and English cover all the descriptors normally employed in manuscript work and we encourage the inclusion of newly-catalogued material into the main database; please contact the editors. Spreadsheet entries for transfer into AMMS can be made here.

Funding for the development and elaboration of AMMS during the past 25 years has been provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, The Johns Hopkins University, al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, and Duke University.

Historical Context: Notes on the Arabic Literary Tradition of West Africa