The Asawansiguiru script, used to write the Soninke languages of Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and beyond, is one of a small handful of scripts to have developed out of a manual trade.
According to tradition, the royal family employed blacksmiths who designed, built, and manufactured light weapons, machetes, spearheads, and cooking pots. Design ideas were made and drawn on animal skins before engraving them in metal, and during the reign of king Jajiri Magassa these designs became a script.
One aspect of the script that illustrates its origins in the manual trades is that every letter corresponds to a particular tool. The first letter, for example, is based on an arrowhead.
The latest information on the progress of the script, as of May 2023, is that it has its most users in the third region of Mali, known as Sikasso. A writing app has been developed, teachers are being trained, and the first digital books will be available later in 2023. A Facebook page is dedicated to the script.
This entry is what Wikipedia calls a “stub”–that is, we know very little, we wish we knew more, and we’d love to hear from anyone who can add to our little stub of knowledge.
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