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African Language Materials Archive – Home Page

What is ALMA? ALMA has soul!

Zeinabu Kumanco

Zeinabu Kumanco, Pular Poet and Museum Curator in Labe, Republic of Guinea


Daramani Tarawele, self-published Malian author with more than 100 Bamanankan titles

Daramani Tarawele, self-published Malian author with more than 100 Bamanankan titles

The African Language Materials Archive, or ALMA, is a multi-partner project focusing on the promotion and documentation of literature and literacy in the languages of Africa. It further serves to assist African language authors and publishers in publicizing and distributing their work.

ALMA’s Websites

ALMA has two websites. At our original site, a section of the Digital Library for International Research, you can find African language literary documents. This, our complementary site, contains complementary materials including African language video recordings, documentary video, translation work, and bibliographies, space for which is provided by the MATRIX Project of Michigan State University.

About ALMA

In October 2000, UNESCO established a contract with the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) for the feasibility phase of the Senegambian portion of the African Language Material Archive (ALMA). CAORC subcontracted with the West African Research Association (WARA) to facilitate the necessary work. ALMA is an initiative that aims to increase dissemination of and access to materials published in indigenous African languages, thereby serving as a vehicle for education and literacy in Africa, and for African language study in the diaspora. ALMA involves the identification, collection, and digitization of published materials and their subsequent production in both CD-ROM and web formats. The website serves as a resource demonstrating the depth and breadth of publishing in African languages, and is designed to facilitate and publicize the work of African authors and publishers. Senegal and Gambia were chosen for the ALMA pilot since they share several prominent languages – Wolof, Pulaar, and Mandinka – in which publication has been plentiful. Since then, the project has been expanded and now presents materials from various West African countries as well as from eastern and southern African countries. ALMA is part of the CAORC-sponsored American Overseas Digital Library, which aims to make inaccessible material available in electronic form to all audiences.

Title VI National Resource Centers’ contributions to ALMA

In recent years, the ALMA project has benefited greatly from annual contributions made by Title VI National Resources Centers.

The following Title VI Centers remain generous supporters of ALMA and make ALMA’s work possible

  • Ohio University
  • Yale University
  • Boston University
  • Indiana University
  • University of Florida
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Wisconsin
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Michigan State University
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel-Hill
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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ALMA’s Advisory Board

John Hutchison, ALMA Coordinator, Boston University
Coordinator of ALMA since 2002, Hutchison worked as African Language Coordinator at Boston U. from 1980 until 2007. As ALMA Coorinator he has worked to expand ALMA in new directions. He is now Associate Professor Emeritus of African Languages & Linguistics. He works principally in West Africa on the cultural and linguistic reform of education systems and on the promotion of the local language publishing industry there.
Ousseina Alidou, Rutgers University
Director of African Languages & Literatures in the Department of Africana Studies, Alidou works on women’s literature in the languages of Niger and is an activist promoting the use of African languages in African education systems. Her current research interests include African women’s literary and expressive cultures, comparative women’s narratives (Afro-Islamic and Francophone Experience), and African Muslim women and the politics of agency and cultural production.
Yuusuf Caruso, Columbia University
Caruso is the African Studies Librarian at Columbia University, with a Ph.D. in African history. He is one of the creators of the ALMA project in its early phases and currently works with the Digital Library for International Resarch on the cataloguing of ALMA documents, and works with the Digital Library for International Research on the cataloging of ALMA documents.
Issa Diallo, University of Ouagadougou
Professor Diallo is the Director of the National Commission of the Fulfulde language of Burkina Faso, and holds a faculty position in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Ouagadougou. He has done extensive research on literacy, establishing an experimental literacy program for pastoralists. His work also focuses on language contact.
James Essegbey, University of Florida
Essegbey specializes in descriptive linguistics and language contact. He is interested in descriptive, documentary and theoretical linguistics, especially in the domain of syntax, semantics and pragmatics; contact linguistics; language and culture; Kwa languages of West Africa, especially Gbe (i.e. Ewe, Gen, Aja and Fon), Akan, and Ghana-Togo Mountain languages; and creole studies.
Henriette Ouedraogo Ilboudo, Radio Rurale, Ouagadougou
Director of the Rural Radio Services of the national radio station in Ouagadougou, Ilboudo is an activist for women and for local languages. She is the founding editor of a women’s newspaper in Moore.
Kassim Kone, State University of New York-Cortland
Tenured Associate Professor of Anthropology at the State University of New York at Cortland, Kone completed his PhD at Indiana University on the role of the proverb in Bamana society in Mali under Michael Jackson. He is a renowned scholar of Mande studies and Vice-President of MANSA.
Fallou Ngom, Boston University
He became Associate Professor of Anthropology at Boston U. in 2008. He works in sociolinguistics and literacy. Fluent in a number of West African languages, Professor Ngom is currently conducting comparative research on Ajami literatures of several Muslim ethnic groups of the Senegambian region. He also works in Forensic Linguistics with a focus on refugees and asylum seekers from West Africa. This new field uses Language Analysis as a way of determining the accurate national origin of some asylum seekers in many Western countries.
Donald Z. Osborn, Bisharat
Donald Osborn is the Founder and coordinator of Bisharat!: A Language, Technology, and Development Initiative that has a significant website for encouraging the use of African languages on the worldwide web. He has developed a listserv for scholars of African languages, has been instrumental in the pioneering of Wikipedia sites for African languages, and is a crusader for African languages in information technology.
Leigh Swigart, Brandeis University
Swigart is a former director of both WARC and WARA. She was instrumental in bringing WARA to its present seat in the African Studies Center at Boston University. Now the Director of Programs in International Justice and Society at the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis University, she has linked ALMA to the human rights movement and with Hutchison and Yanco developed proposals for the translation of the human rights documents of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights into 30 West African languages for which funding is pending.
Jennifer Yanco, Ex-officio member:
West African Research Association
Currently the US Director of WARA, Yanco did her PhD at Indiana University on language contact and bilingualism among Hausa and Zarma speakers in the Nigerien city of Niamey. She has since taught in the African Languages Program at Boston University and has served as a Fulbright lecturer in linguistics at the University of Niamey. Her area of specialization is West African languages.

Website Credits

Lori DeLucia

  • Attic Windows Web Design
  • Lori DeLucia, Documentary Filmmaker prepared podcasts
  • John Hutchison, ALMA Coordinator and Writer

Contact ALMA almasite.wara@gmail.com

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