Ahmadou Hampaté Bá

Ahmadou Hampaté Bá

He played an important role in recovering and conveying African culture and its manuscript archives, the result of fifty years of research on oral traditions.

"In Africa, when an elderly person dies, a library burns, an entire library disappears, without the need for the flames to eliminate the paper."

A Malian writer and ethnologist (Mali, 1900 – Ivory Coast, 1991), he was educated in Koranic and French schools. He quickly stood out in his studies, and he enrolled in the school of magistracy on the island of Gorée (Senegal). After 1922, he held various positions in the colonial administration, and in 1942, he began to work as an ethnologist at the IFAN (African Institute of Basic Research).

After his nation´s independence, he held various leadership positions at UNESCO, the institution through which he tried to preserve oral African cultures.

After 1970, he focused his work on classifying the archives he had accumulated throughout his life about the oral traditions in Western Africa. He published various works on oral literature, and his story titled El extraño destino de Wangrin (The Strange Destiny of Wangrin) earned him the Great Literature Award of Africa in 1974.

He has written numerous works, including Tierno Bokar, le Sage de Bandiagra (1957), in honour of the revered master; Koumen (1961), in which he collected the early tales and short stories of peule pastors; Kaidara (1969) and Jesús visto por un musulmán (Jesus Viewed by  a Muslim) (1976). He also wrote his memoirs, Amkoullel l'enfant peul and Oui mon commandant!, which were published posthumously.


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