Islam and Islamic Arts in Africa

by Allen F. Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles (formerly University of Iowa)

Book of hatumere, Fulani work that refers to squares and texts used in healing and related magic, Senegal, 1995. Photo by Mary Nooter Roberts and Allen F. Roberts. Submitted by Allen F. Roberts.

 

The healer of the previous screen maintains an archive of sacred and cabalistic texts to consult while treating patients. Shown here is a book of what are known as khatem or in western Africa more generically, hatumere from a Fulani word derived from Arabic that refers to squares and texts used in healing and related magic. Hatumere has also been extended to refer to “many aspects of self-conscious design in the west African environment” (Prussin 1986), including “the wise man's knot” motif seen on the Hausa man's robe of an earlier screen. If divination suggests that this hatumere addresses a given problem, the healer will copy it onto paper with the patient's name written in the protected central space. Then the paper may be sewn into an amulet to be worn, or soaked in water so that the patient may drink or bathe in its soothing message (Roberts and Roberts 2003).