Tuareg (Touareg, Twareg)


The Tuareg are a Berber etTuareg Man hnic group or nation. Tuareg is the name give to them by early explorers and historians, but they call themselves Kel Tamashek or  Kel Tamajek which means "speakers of Tamashek" andImouhar, Imuhagh, Imazaghan or Imashaghen,  meaning "the free people." It is believed by some that the word Tuareg was given by the French and meant "abandoned by the gods," though other sources believe it is derived from the word Targa, the name of a city in south Libya in the Fezzan region. The Tuareg of today are mostly found in west Africa, but like many in Northern Africa, were once nomads of the Sahara.

Descendants of Berbers in the area now known as Libya, the Tuareg are descendants of ancient Saharan people, shown to us by in the ruins of Germa, and later they expanded southward into Sahel. For over two millennia, the Tuareg have conducted the trans-Saharan caravan trade connecting the cities on the southern edge of the Sahara via the desert trade routes to the north African coast. The Tuareg adopted camel nomadism from camel-herding Arabs about 2000 years ago when the camel was introduced into the Sahara from Saudi Arabia. Like numerous African and other groups, the Tuareg took slaves, either for trade or for domestic reasons. Those who were not sold were absorbed into Tuareg life forming the labor division in the camel herding society.

The Tuareg are matrilineal, though not matriarchal. Unlike many muslim societies, the women do not traditionally wear a veil, known as tagelmust, though the men do. These tagelmust are only taken off in the presence of close family.  Tuareg men find shame in showing their mouth or nose to strangers or people of higher standing than themselves.  The tagelmust is a 3 to 5 meter long indigo dyed cotton combination of turban and veil. The men's facial covering originates from the belief that such action wards off evil spirits, but most probably relates to protection against the harsh desert sands as well; in any event, it is a firmly established tradition as is the wearing of amulets containing verses out of the Koran believed to bring protection. 

Due to the fact that they are nomadic, their art takes on forms of smaller items of utilitarian items, such as jewelry or leatherwork. The Tuareg also produce finely crafted swords. Fine detail is paid to the engraving of their jewelry, tent poles, bowl holders and bowls, adorning them with intricate geometric designs and patterns. It is possible that Christianity had an influence on the Tuareg in some way as the Tuareg blacksmith create some wonderful crosses.


Some Tuareg items either still in our collection or sold:

Tuareg Bowl

Tuareg Tent Post

Tuareg Tent Post

Tuareg Bowl Holder