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Photo of Amadou Hampâté Bâ the Sage of Africa

In Africa, when an old man dies, it is an unexploited library that burns.


Mali & Ivory Coast: Amadou Hampâté Bâ the Sage of Africa and the Sage of Marcory.

Amadou Hampâté Bâ, born in 1901 in Bandiagara, Mali, capital of the Dogon country and former capital of the Toucouleur Empire.

Bandiagara is an impressive view and one of the best-known tourist sites and source of income for Mali.

UNESCO and the government of Mali consider the area to be of paramount importance and therefore the entire Dogon region is on the World Heritage List.

The Dogon people are known for mapping the stars with surprising precision, and also have superior skills in other technical areas, especially irrigation and agriculture.

Amadou Hampâté Bâ is the son of Hampâté Bâ and Kadidja Pâté Poullo Diallo, he is a descendant of a noble Fulani family.


Amadou Hampâté Bâ The Sage, The Writer, The Ethnologist and The Diplomat

The care for knowledge is something precious,.

According to the Dogon and Fulani, the “didactic” of learning happens when the knowledge is passed on with mastery from generation to generation through oral tradition.

Member of the Executive Board of UNESCO from 1962 to 1970, he is also called the “Sage of Africa” and the “Sage of Marcory”.

On November 18, 1960, he launched his appeal at the UNESCO general assembly:

“In Africa, when an old traditionalist dies, it is an unexploited library that burns”. 

He devoted himself in particular to fifteen years of research which led him to write the Fulani Empire of Macina.

In 1951, he obtained a UNESCO scholarship allowing him to go to Paris and meet Africanist circles, notably Marcel Griaule.

In 1960, upon Mali’s independence, he founded the Institute of Human Sciences in Bamako and represented his country at the UNESCO General Conference.

He participated in the development of a unified system for the transcription of African languages. In 1968, he was appointed Ambassador of Mali to Ivory Coast.


If Conflict Threatens You, Remember the Virtues of Dialogue and Words!


Passionate about African cultural heritage, Ahmadou Hampaté Bâ collected, transcribed and translated it from a very young age to save it, and gathered precious archives in French about numerous Fulani oral traditions.

It attaches great importance to the values of solidarity and responsibility present in traditional African civilizations, and to the relationship with the natural world and spirituality.


The Living Memory of Africa

Isn’t orality the mother of writing, across the centuries as well as in the individual himself? The world’s first archives or libraries were the brains of men.

Furthermore, before putting down on paper the thoughts he conceives, the writer or scholar engages in a secret dialogue with himself.

Before writing a story, a man remembers the facts as they were reported to him or, if he experienced them, as he tells them to himself.

If we asked a true African traditionalist “What is oral tradition?”, we would undoubtedly embarrass him greatly.

Perhaps he would respond after a long silence: “It is total knowledge” and say no more. (Bâ, 1980, p. 193-194).

Bâ, Amadou Hampâté (1980). La tradicion vivant. In: Histoire générale de l’Afrique, Tomo I: Méthodologie et préhistoire africaine. UNESCO/NEA. p. 191-230.

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