Centuries before colonial powers brought European languages and writing systems to Africa, many Muslim Africans were writing their languages in Arabic script. Today, with most Arabic scholars unfamiliar with African languages and scholars fluent in African languages often unfamiliar with Arabic, thousands of documents written in the modified Arabic scripts known as Ajami lie understudied in archives across the continent. Fallou Ngom (Professor of Anthropology, former Director of the ASC) has led a number of ongoing research projects on Ajami with a team of scholars and researchers at BU and beyond. Their work has involved both finding and preserving Ajami texts as well as integrating Ajami training into language instruction so that students and researchers can study both historical and current use of Ajami in several languages.
Projects and Archives
- African Ajami Library – Boston University’s open-access digital library, OpenBU
- Digital Preservation of Wolof Ajami Manuscripts of Senegal (EAP334) – British Museum, Endangered Archives Programme
- Digital Preservation of Mandinka Ajami Materials of Casamance, Senegal (EAP1042) – British Museum, Endangered Archives Programme
- ʿAjami Literature and the Expansion of Literacy and Islam: The Case of West Africa – National Endowment for the Humanities, Collaborative Research Grant
- Muslims beyond the Arab World: The Odyssey of Ajami and the Muridiyya (Oxford University Press, 2016) by Fallou Ngom
- Winner of African Studies Association’s Herskovits Prize (now called the ASA Book Prize)
- Readers in Ajami – funded by the U.S. Department of Education to develop specialized Ajami readers in Hausa, Wolof, and Mandinka (three major African languages with rich written Ajami literatures) with a multimedia companion website
- Sóóbu Ci Gééjug Wolofal: Njàng Mu Njëkk Ci Wolofal (Diving into the Ocean of Wolofal: First Workbook in Wolofal/Wolof Ajami) by Fallou Ngom and Alex Zito
- Jagoran Koyan Hausa Ajami a Aiwace (A Practical Guide to Learning Hausa Ajami) by Mustapha Kurfi
Contact us to learn about how to acquire copies of the workbooks above. Additional materials are in development thanks to funding provided by the US Department of Education through its Title VI National Resource Center program.
- Digitizing Ajami, a Centuries-Old African Script – The Brink, January 23, 2020
- Refuting that Africa Lacked Written Traditions – Africa is a Country, October 1, 2019
- Professor Fallou Ngom Awarded Herskovits Prize – BU Center for the Humanities, April 2, 2018
- The Lost Script – The Boston Globe, January 10, 2010