The goal of this Kickstarter is to raise the funds needed to self-publish a book of photographs on the Islamic scholarship of Timbuktu, Mali. The book tells a story of discovery, unfolding page by page, a rich and beautiful African intellectual culture that remains largely unknown in the West. It is a book about men and women who love books – scholars of all ages who seek knowledge and wisdom through learning. It is about a city that has built its identity around a culture of scholarship.
Five years ago, I lived in Timbuktu, Mali, for ten months in order to research and photograph the city’s scholarly culture. My work was supported by a Fulbright Grant.
I did not have an air-conditioned car in Timbuktu or even a moped. Instead, I developed my calf muscles by walking on sand (Timbuktu has only one paved street). I wore long pants, long sleeves, and a bandana over my head to protect myself from the sun and sand and to adapt, in part, to a culture where grown women almost always wear something over their hair. I carried a canteen and my camera, and I learned to navigate the medina by watching the shadows during the day and the movement of Orion at night. I learned to always say and think In Sha’Allah, the Arabic phrase meaning “God willing,” which gave me patience and understanding when my interviews, or my health, or my photographs weren’t going as well as I would like. I got dysentery and countless colds. They say the sand of Timbuktu is blessed by the city’s 333 saints, but the open sewers and piles of burning trash made me wonder. Like any traveler I got ripped off in countless tiny ways, but I also benefited from boundless generosity.
It is difficult to fully express my gratitude to the people of Timbuktu, who welcomed me into their homes, schools, and ceremonies. The years I’ve been working on this book are the best measure I can take of it. Almost every marabout, imam, alpha-woye, and craftsman I asked let me watch and photograph their work. Some spent many hours with me in interviews. They put up with my youth and my ignorance.
I gained a deep respect for the history and traditions of Timbuktu and a healthy skepticism for one of the most sinister truisms of the twentieth century: that tradition and social and economic development are incompatible. I saw that it was love and respect for one’s own culture that gave the greatest strength, adaptability, and creativity in the face of change.
Although I took thousands of photographs during my months in Timbuktu, this book focuses very specifically on the city’s ancient culture of Islamic scholarship. The book’s concise presentation reveals a world that is largely unknown in the West: a deeply rooted, ancient Islamic tradition of tolerance, erudition, and faith.
Title: 333 Saints: Life and Scholarship in Timbuktu
Photographs: 37 (including cover)
Other Text: quotes, captions, postscript
Language: English and French!!
Imprint: Kyoudai Press. You can find out more about my imprint on the WordPress site: http://kyoudaipress.wordpress.com/
Medium: Hardcover – The books will be printed in Iceland by a printer that specializes in art books.
Colors: The selected photographs include both color and black and white images.
Size: (currently) 6” by 9”
Number of copies: 400 to 500 (depending on the interest shown and how much money I raise!)
Year printed: 2013
All books pre-ordered through this Kickstarter will be signed and dated by me! If you pledge $15 or more, your name will appear on the ‘Thank You’ page in the book.
If you would like to see more of the photographs from this project, please check out this 5 minute video on how my photographs relate to the current crisis in Mali:
or view this portfolio: http://www.alexandrahuddleston.com/#a=0&at=0&mi=2&pt=1&pi=10000&s=0&p=1
[Not all of the photographs on these two websites appear in the book.]
Why have I decided to raise the funds to make the book through Kickstarter?
As many of you know, printing a high-quality, full-color photography book is expensive. Quite frankly, I can’t afford to make this book happen without your help!
Moreover, by raising the funds through Kickstarter, I get a chance to offer my supporters special deals on prints, as well as special edition items that are only available now.
So, what is a ‘Kickstarter Edition’?
Under the pledge options, you will find 2 ‘Kickstarter Editions.’ One is a small (8” by 10” paper size), archival, ink-jet print of the photograph that graces the cover of the book [see “Grand Level Supporter”] – an image of the photograph begins this section. The other is a small, hand-made book of night photographs taken during my time in Timbuktu [see “Timbuktu By Night Supporter”].
The size of these editions will be limited to the number of backers that pledge at a level high enough to receive these incentives. These two items will not be offered in this form again!
Moreover, I have decided to offer the photograph ‘Mawlid Women by Night’ at a special price in both its small and large limited edition formats [see “Featured Print of ‘Mawlid Women by Night’ Supporter – Small Size” and “Featured Print of ‘Mawlid Women by Night’ Supporter – Large Size”] – an image of this photograph ends this section.
I’m excited about making these prints and books and getting them out to you!
Lastly, I’ve run one successful Kickstarter campaign before. The process seemed to work well for me and for my backers, so I decided to try again, this time with a more ambitious project. Please do check out my previous Kickstarter and the collaborative artists’ book it created here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1101472817/lost-things-limited-edition-artists-book
You can learn more about me from my bio, as well as my various project websites:
Portfolio Site: http://www.alexandrahuddleston.com/
Newsletter Blog: http://electiveaffinitiesphoto.wordpress.com/
333 Saints Under Threat Video: http://333saints.wordpress.com/
Kyoudai Press Site: http://kyoudaipress.wordpress.com/
Kyoudai Press Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KyoudaiPress?ref=hl
Risks and challenges
If everything goes smoothly, In Sha’Allah, the final PDF will be ready to send to the printer in early July. It will take a couple of months for them to make the books and send them from Iceland, and it will also take me a couple of months to get all the other prints and goodies together. That is why I’m estimating a delivery date of mid-September.
However, there are a lot of moving parts involved in this project. I’m working with my own schedule and deadlines, with the translators, and with the printer and shipping companies.
This is the largest publishing project I’ve taken on so far! As such, although I’ve researched the process and asked for lots of advice from experienced colleagues, miscalculations in the timing could occur…Or, one or more of the parties involved might develop unforeseen circumstances that I’ll have to take into account…And, there’s always that invisible nightmare called ‘technical difficulties’ (especially involving computer equipment) that lingers as a shadow over any project!
Hopefully, all will go well. However, be assured that at all stages, I’ll keep you updated on my progress with informative and entertaining backer reports!
- (33 days)