333 Saints: A Life of Scholarship in Timbuktu / 333 Saints : l’esprit du savoir à Tombouctou
This photographic book in English and French by Alexandra Huddleston tells a story of discovery: exploring a rich and beautiful African intellectual culture, that of the ancient manuscript libraries of Timbuktu and the culture of scholarship that created them.
Timbuktu, at the edge of the vast Sahara Desert, was little known in the West–except as a byword for the remote and exotic–until militant Islamist groups destroyed many of its religious shrines and ancient manuscripts in 2012. This hauntingly beautiful book captures a way of life and learning as it was shortly before the militants overran the city. These photographs depict a moment in time now almost gone, fading into history. They show a culture of moderate Islam that is under threat–a deeply rooted, ancient Islamic tradition of tolerance, erudition, and faith–and a city that has built its very identity around scholarship and a love of books and learning.
The publication of 333 Saints was made possible by a crowd-funding campaign.
You can learn more about the campaign on the 333 Saints Kickstarter webpage.
Scroll down this page to read a series of testimonials about the work.
Status: Published, September 2013
Author: Alexandra Huddleston
Imprint: Kyoudai Press
Photographs: 37 (including cover)
Other Text: quotes, captions, postscript
Language: English and French
Medium: Hardcover, offset press
Size: 6” by 9” / 96 pages
Edition Size: 500
1st Edition: 2013
View more photographs from the book on Alexandra Huddleston’s PORTFOLIO WEBSITE.
Book tease slideshow:
Excerpt from the book’s afterword:
By Alexandra Huddleston
“This book has been under construction since I left Timbuktu in 2007. It has gone through numerous drafts in the course of its evolution. Indeed, I thought I had a close-to-final draft in the fall of 2011. A few months later, on the first of April 2012, a mixed group of rebels took over the city of Timbuktu, cementing their control over the north of Mali. This military offensive took advantage of a coup in the south that rendered the central government unable to react to what was happening in the north.
All at once, my photographs, which had been documents of contemporary life, became relics of a vanishing history. This transformation happens to all photographs eventually, but this time it happened in the course of hours. Inevitably, I had to re-evaluate the purpose of the book. I had intended my work to show a different side of Africa from the stories of war and famine that have dominated the continent’s representation in the US media. I hope it still does, but now the photographs also provide essential cultural background to understanding Mali’s current crises (current, that is, at the time of publication)…"
"333 Saints: A Life of Scholarship Under Threat" is a 5 minute video created by Alexandra Huddleston in 2012 shortly after militant groups took over the north of Mali in that year.
Currents events have now surpassed the moment at which the work was created. It nonetheless provides important background to the ongoing crisis in the north of Mali, as well as to the published book 333 Saints: A Life of Scholarship in Timbuktu.