Notes on FESPACO

Forwarding from our colleague Atoma Batoma at the University of Illinois, who made a recent visit to Burkina Faso and now serves as chair of the Africana Librarians Council:

“The attached document contains a list of 973 films presented at the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO), which takes place in the Burkina Faso’s capital city of Ouagadougou. It covers the entire production of the festival since its founding in 1969. This document was provided to me during an International Book Buying trip funded by the International and Area Studies library (IAS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

“I arrived in Ouagadougou on April 5, 2017, a month after the conclusion of the FESPACO 2017, the 25th edition of the festival that had taken place from February 25th through March 4th. I met with several employees and Mr. Serge Kahoun, the curator of the film depository. After being given a tour of the premises of the Festival and the impressive storage facilities for housing several thousand reels, I sat down for an hour conversation with Mr. Kahoun. In his presentation of the history of the festival, he touched upon some important aspects: the role of FESPACO as a leading cultural event in Africa, the progressive increase in the number of the participants over the years, and the internationalization of the festival and its impact on the African film making ethics. At the same time, the festival organizers have had to implement increasingly heavier security measures, especially since Burkina Faso has been hit by a series of attacks by Islamist militants over the past few years.

“The 973 films listed in this document comprise short films, full-length films, documentaries, and TV series. They can be divided into two categories based on the perspective on the African reality they portray: the perspective that presents perceptions of Africa from within, that is, African self-perceptions, and the perspective that presents Africa from an external or critical standpoint.

“English and French are the two dominant languages of the Festival, but there is also a non-negligible number of films in African languages. As a principle, all the films in English are supposed to be systematically subtitled in French and vice versa, and the films in African languages subtitled either in English or French, but perhaps due to the increasing volume of submissions (1,000 in 2017), this principle has not always been followed.

“One of the problems that the Festival needs to solve is that of the accessibility of its films. FESPACO does not have a store that sells its productions, and there are no other distribution circuits. The only way to obtain FESPACO films is to order them directly from the film maker/directors. Fortunately, the list provided in this spreadsheet contains the film makers’ contact information (physical addresses, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, etc.).”

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Link to a FAQ on Ebola in Congolese Kiswahili

As in 2014, the small company I co-founded, Athinkra, LLC, has coordinated the translation of a World Health Organization (WHO) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) file, this time for a language spoken in North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  The translated FAQ may be found here:

The translation was completed by Emmanuel Ndolimana at Athinkra’s request, with the permission of the WHO.  It may be freely distributed.  Please post any questions or comments you may have.


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A message from a teacher of Adlam

Forwarding this from a colleague in the Gambia:

“Hi, my name is Alhassana Barry.  I teach the Adlam script to students in Banjul, The Gambia on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  If you have any questions about the Adlam script or the Fula language, I would be happy to help answer them.”

“𞤮𞤲 𞤶𞤢𞥄𞤪𞤢𞥄𞤥𞤢 𞤳𞤮 𞤥𞤭𞤲 𞤥𞤵𞤧𞤭𞤯𞤮 𞤥𞤮𞤲 𞤮𞤲 𞤢𞤤𞤸𞤢𞤧𞤢𞤲𞤢 𞤦𞤢𞤪𞥆𞤭  𞤱𞤨𞤥𞤯𞤮𞤲 𞤤𞤫𞤴𞤣𞤭 𞤺𞤢𞤲𞤦𞤮𞤢 𞤮 𞤧𞤢𞤴𞤭 𞤯𞤮𞥅 𞤥𞤭𞤯𞤮 𞤲𞤮𞤣𞥆𞤢 𞤳𞤢𞤤𞤢 𞤬𞤢𞤤𞤢𞥄𞤯𞤮 𞤶𞤢𞤲𞤺𞤵𞤣𞤫 𞤢𞤣𞤤𞤢𞤥 𞤱𞤢𞤤𞤢 𞤸𞤵𞤲𞤨𞤭𞤼𞤢𞤣𞤫 𞤳𞤮 𞤴𞤮𞤧𞤭𞤼𞤭 𞤫 𞤢𞤣𞤤𞤢𞤥 𞤥𞤭 𞤬𞤢𞤥𞤭𞤲𞤢𞤴 𞤮𞤲 𞤼𞤭𞤺𞤭 𞤳𞤮 𞤥𞤭 𞤬𞤢𞥄𞤥𞤭 𞤥𞤭 𞤳𞤮𞤲.”



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An informal joint project between Yale and Harvard, regarding N’ko

Do you remember our “Map Challenge” on this blog from a few years ago?  That was in the N’ko script, used for Mande languages in Guinea, Mali, and elsewhere in West Africa.  Since that time, a relevant romanization table has been approved by the American Library Association and the Library of Congress, and has become available as a support to cataloging materials in N’ko.  Nafadji Sory Condé has written a helpful book on the subject of N’ko, in French.  Meanwhile, OCLC took the step of supporting full Unicode, including the N’ko range.

These developments prompted discussions between catalogers and other librarians at Harvard and Yale, who together with faculty thought it would now be possible to create MARC catalog records that would include the N’ko script.  I brought the subject up with Bassey Irele and Boubacar Diakité, a lecturer in N’ko at Harvard; Bassey introduced us to Naun Chiat Chew and Isabel Quintana, who helped to keep the ball rolling as we went through a bibliography of Valentin Vydrin looking for matches to existing Romanized records.

As a result, there are now about sixty records that have been produced, held by either Harvard, Yale, or both institutions, and have made their way into OCLC’s Worldcat, where they can be searched and downloaded by other institutions.  One example is “ߖߌ߬ߓߙߌ߬ߓߊ ߝߊ߬ߛߊ” (“Jìbìrìba fàsa”):;;  More fine-tuning is needed to ensure that the linking is being handled correctly, but it gives you a sense of how the project results have been turning out so far.

Hopefully, the results are supportive of the establishment of proof of concept, not only for N’ko, but in working out arrangements for other additional scripts as well.  Feel free to pass along your questions and comments.


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“ꕇꔧ ꖝꖕꕯ ꗓꖺ ꕮ ꗏꖺ ꕇ ꕗ.”

“The price of a whole cow is never cheap.”–traditional Vai proverb.  For those who are interested in learning Vai, there are an increasing number of available resources to work from.  They don’t all fit under the category of traditional learning materials though.  There is a Vai Wikimedia Incubator Project, a FAQ about Ebola, a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a copy of the New Testament, and recent articles including one by Olena Tykhostup and Piers Kelly, and another by Andrij Rovenchak, Tombekai Sherman, and myself.  Tombekai and I also gave a presentation last year at the 10th International Conference of the Mande Studies Association in Grand-Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire, offering translations of manuscripts held at Tulane University and the British Library.  While work toward a new Vai dictionary is also underway, existing dictionary resources include Koelle (1854) and Welmers & Kandakai (1973).

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Possible steps forward for internationalization in MARC and BIBFRAME

Two developments have come to light independently of each other on the listserv for the Committee on Cataloging: Asian and African Materials (CC:AAM) of the American Library Association (ALA).  One is a statement in support of the internationalization of the BIBFRAME effort.  The other is a discussion paper on the introduction of ISO 15924 script tags into the 880 fields of MARC.  Together, they have generated a fair amount of discussion in committees at ALA and online.  I won’t dive to deeply into those discussions here, except to reiterate a point from Karen Coyle that more use cases would be helpful, and to offer that both efforts point to a similar perceived gap in the architecture of bibliographic data.  There have been efforts in the past to integrate parts of BCP 47 into MARC, whether in the 041 field (for ISO 639-3 language tags) or in the 066 field (for ISO 15924 script tags), but the solutions have not been evenly implemented, and leave considerable gaps in the availability of accurate language tagging.  As the use of BIBFRAME becomes more widespread and requirements for accessibility increase, resolution of these efforts in the architecture of our metadata frameworks will become more important.

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Newly cataloged Ethiopic MSS at Yale’s Beinecke Library

With no small amount of assistance from Steve Delamarter of George Fox University and the Ethiopian Manuscript Imaging Project (EMIP), a set of about thirty Ethiopian manuscripts have begun to receive enhanced cataloging in the Yale Library online catalog.  Any errors or omissions are strictly my own.  To find them, simply point your browser to Yale’s Quicksearch (, and perform a call number search for the terms ‘ethiopic’ and ‘beinecke’.  You should have a result set of the thirty-three manuscripts covered by this project, a little out of order, and with a couple of minor gaps in the numbering sequence.  Some of these date to as early as the 17th century; included are a computus and a synaxarium.  Full digitization has not yet been undertaken for this set, although you can find in the Beinecke’s digital collections images of the cases of Ethiopic MSS 5, 29 and 30, and imagery of Ethiopic MSS 28, a scroll, the text of which has been digitized.

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የእኔ የታክሲ ሾፌር ኢትዮጵያ ከ ነበር.

እኔ ደግሞ ከዚህ ጠዋት ከኢትዮጵያ ቡና ጽዋ ነበረው.  እኔ ቀስ የአማርኛ ቋንቋ የበለጠ በመማር ነኝ.  እኔ መዝግቦ ለማሻሻል እፈልጋለሁ.  ይህን ለመረዳት አስቸጋሪ ነው.  እኔ ጥረት ይበልጥ ውጤታማ እንዲሆን አደርጋለሁ.

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The UDHR in the Adlam script of the Fula people

We now have a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights typed in the newly invented Adlam script of the Fula people; this was generously produced and provided by Boubacar Diallo of Grand Dakar, Senegal:  UDHR Adlam Pulaar.  Enjoy!

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The UDHR in the invented Shü-mom language, in the A-ka-u-ku script of the Bamum people

Thanks to the effort of Kapu Njikam Abdel Ramadan, in work sponsored by Athinkra, LLC, we now have a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights translated into the Shü-mom language of the Bamum people of Cameroon, using its indigenous script known as “A-ka-u-ku”.  This translation has yet to be typed in, but will soon join the other 502 translations that exist.  We are happy to post it here.

Update:  I received a report that this is not actually in the Shü-mom language, but in another language using the A-ka-u-ku script.  This will take a little more analysis; I’ll be happy to report more once we’ve got it figured out.

Update #2:  While we’re still working on deciphering this, there is a copy of the UDHR in the Bamum (or Bamun) language using Latin script posted here:




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