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The Tuaregs of Morocco

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Bianca
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« on: October 13, 2007, 09:03:53 pm »

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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2007, 09:15:48 pm »

                       
« Last Edit: October 19, 2007, 10:22:02 am by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2007, 09:17:22 pm »


GUELMIN, Morocco is across from Lanzarote.






                                                     G U E L M I M




Guelmim (also spelt Goulimine or Guelmin) is a town with a population of 95,749 (2004 census) in southwestern Morocco, often nicknamed "Gateway to the Desert" (la porte du désert). It is the capital of the Guelmim-Es Semara region which includes Southern Morocco (south of the Souss-Massa-Draa region) and northern Western Sahara. Situated in the southern Anti-Atlas Mountains near the northwestern edge of the Sahara, Guelmim is a walled town with houses built out of sun-dried red clay and is encircled by date palm groves. Historically it was a caravan centre linked (especially in the 19th century) to Timbuktu (now in Mali), and it remains a commercial gateway to Mauritania.

When hippies "discovered" certain types of colourful African trade beads there in the 1960s, these became known as "Guelmin beads", although they were actually manufactured in Europe, mainly in Venice.

As with most other places in Southern Morocco, public life in Guelmim is easygoing and the people are fantastically friendly. This is a place where you can meet everyone approaching you as the friend they claim to be. Even female travellers can open up to advancing strangers.
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« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2007, 09:20:27 pm »










Guelmim is home to the biggest camel market in Morocco and is held every Saturday at daybreak. The absolute stars are the "Blue Men of the Desert" or Tuareg, so called because they wear an indigo coloured outfit, consisting of robes and a long blue scarf or tagilmust they use to swathe their heads and faces.

These indigo-dyed garments are most prized. Because water is scarce in the desert, the indigo is pounded, instead of boiled, into the cloth. This method of dying the fabric imbues the cloth with a shimmery blue-black patina. With

wear, the colour seeps into the pores of their skin, casting a bluish-violet hue. Since indigo is precious and expensive, their bluish skin has become a status symbol among them - the darker blue a man’s skin, the wealthier he appears. Guelmim is one of the trading towns where the Tuareg come for supplies and to have their robes made.

If you come on a Saturday, you will have the chance to meet the real Tuareg nomads as they come to the market. If you plan your trip to coincide with region's annual moussem in May, you will have the chance to see big crowds of real Tuareg Blue Men.

On top of the weekly Camel Fair, the people of Guelmim hold an annual Camel Festival at Tan Tan Road every July. While once evoking images of Lawrence of Arabia, the festival is more of a tourist attraction than an actual market, due mainly to the decline in camel transport and the rise in 4x4s.

The festival is still extremely fascinating and offers the opportunity to witness the ancient dance ritual known as the Guedra, which is associated with Guelmim. The dance is performed by a woman to the beat of a drum made from a kitchen pot (guedra) and the chanting and clapping of onlookers. The dance often induces a hypnotic state and is carried out to serve as a blessing or to submit oneself to God.

A good place to visit is Fort Bou Jerif, which is the remains of a Foreign Legion fort. This place is really in the middle of nowhere, in miles of undulating hills and sandy shrubbery, halfway between Guelmim and the Atlantic coast. It can only be reached by tracks and a tour guide is pretty essential, or you could get lost. As if from nowhere, the Fort will appear, with lovely looking buildings, including a hotel, a motel, a restaurant, a shop, a place to camp, and all the accommodation anyone could desire.

A short drive away is Plage Blanche, an enormous sandy beach, which is completely unspoilt. An alternate beach to visit is at Sidi Ifni, an odd little cliff-side town. The town and surrounding territory were controlled by Spain until 1969 when the Moroccans forced them out. Its appeal lies not just with the beach but its beautiful art deco buildings.
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« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2007, 09:27:03 pm »


TUAREG CAMEL MARKET






                                                Kel Tamashiq..."Tuaregs"





  The Tuareg belong to the large Berber (Imazighen) community, which stretches from the Canary Islands to Egypt and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Niger River. They are the only Berber speaking community, to have preserved and used the Tifinagh writing. Nomads of vast arid lands, the common denominator of the dispersed Tuareg are the language, Tamasheq.
                                       
 They identify themselves variously such as: Kel Tamasheq (people of Tamasheq), Imouhar, Imuhagh, Imazaghan, or Imashaghen (the free). For the sake of simplicity; Tuareg is used in this document. Although the origin and early history of the Tuaregs are cloudy, these tribal nomads appear to have travelled down from North Africa in a series of migrations as early as the 7th century. By the end of the 14th century, Tuareg tribes had established themselves as far south as the Nigerian border.



Raids against settlements

As they advanced, the Tuareg met the Songhay and the Hausa, who were forced to acknowledge their regime. Raids against sedentary settlements and caravans were central to their ethos and hierarchy, and increased their herds of cattle. Because of their swift camels and superior weapons, the Tuareg generally had the better of their enemies.

 

The Tuareg also conquered the Harratine, who were a farming people of Negroid stock. These people were not trained for war and gave in without a struggle. In return for protection from other desert marauders, they agreed to give the Tuareg half their garden produces. Thereafter they continued to farm their land as serfs.
                                     


The Tuareg population

The Tuareg themselves claim to be more than three million. Yet, their number has variously been estimated at some one point five to two million, with the majority of some 750,000 living in Niger, and 550,000 in Mali. In Algeria, they are estimated at 40,000, excluding some 100,000 refugees from Mali and Niger, and the same number is officially admitted to live in Burkina Faso. Proper figures are not established in Libya and other West African French-speaking countries.

Location and country

Tuareg country ranges from Savannah in the south, with 10-20 inches (50cm) of rain per year, to barren desert in the north, dominated by the mountains of Ahaggar, Tassilin-ajjer, Adrar-n-Foras and Air. The northern region is very hot in summer, often reaching temperatures of 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55C). Violent winds are also very common and add considerably, to the discomfort of the climate.

 A sandstorm does far more damage than rain and they are much feared. Travelling is extremely hard under such conditions and most people spend the day in the shade of rocks and trees, sleeping and drinking water. The rains in the Sahara are irregular and in some places, it has not rained for six years. In contrast, it sometimes fall snow, on the higher slopes of the Ahaggar during winter.

 

Shelter of tents and huts

Shelters take the form of small lightweight tents of leather or sometimes grass huts. The average size of a tent is about 10 feet (3m) deep and 10 to 15 feet (4.5m) wide. The average household can pack its goods on the backs of two camels, while a donkey or two may be used to carry the small stuff. Clothing is loose, voluminous, and light in weight. A Tuareg would also consider himself undressed, if he does not carry a knife. Women go barefaced but with a head kerchief.

   
                                    
People of the Veil

In direct contrast to Arab custom, all Tuareg men wear a veil ,while their women are unveiled. The men's veil is the most distinctive and arresting article of clothing among the Tuareg. Self-respecting Tuareg think it shockingly indecent for a man, to let his mouth be seen by anyone to whom he owes formal respect.

Nor will he show his face to anyone, whose social standing he considers superior to his own. Both young men and young women adopt the veil or head cloth at initiation or marriage, which shows that their social functions are identical. The most preferred veils are dyed indigo, though many make do with black ones.   
« Last Edit: October 13, 2007, 09:36:26 pm by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2007, 09:38:31 pm »








 Trance dances: mysteries of the Guedra of the Tuareg.



                           


 
Southern Morocco is the home of the Guedra dance, Morrocos most known Tribal Dance or ritual dance. Specially the city of Goulimine is known for Guedra shows but became too much touristic in that respect.
                           

The origins of the guedra is hidden is a distant past. On the trance rhythms of the tbol - the big drum or rather some sort of big cauldron covered with goats or camel skin which is painted with geometrical figures in henna or other natural paint. Guedra is also the name of this large drum used to beat the rhythms of the dance. Female dancers make mesmerizing movements with the arms while swaying their heads from left to right. It's a tuareg blessing dance done on the knees where the dancers can get in a sort trance. Typical for this dance are the flickering movements of the hands which are decorated with henna paintings. The torso makes vertical pulses. Some Guedra dancers move or rather shove in a sort of back and forward movement on their knees over the sand or carpets.

Besides the Guedra dance, Morrocco has many other particular tribal Berber dances such as the Hassada, Houara, Qalaat Mgouna (dance of the bees)and the dance of the Aït Bouguemaz. Other danses like the spectacular gnaoua dance is reserved for men only. The North African Tribal Berber population is called Amazigh in Berber language.
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« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2007, 09:40:11 pm »

           








                                                   T H E  T U A R E G





A cluster of 8 distinct groups in 5 different countries
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



"Far away to the south of Algeria,
in the trackless wastes of the Sahara,
there lives a race of marauding nomads,
who on account of their impious character,
have been named by the Arabs -

Tawarek, meaning God-forsaken".



 The Tuareg are a group of nomadic stock breeders (considered part of the Berber peoples), who live in an extensive area of West Africa from Western Sahara to the northern parts of Western Sudan. The question of their origin and early history is still unresolved, but they appear to have traveled southwards in a series of migrations as early as the 7th century AD. By the end of the 14th century Tuareg groups had established themselves as far south as the Nigerian border.



History:

The ancient Sahara was a region worth fighting for. Archaeologists have been digging up and studying the remains of large populations that once lived, evidently in comfort, all over it. Judging from the remains these archaeologists have found, they believe the ancient Sahara was a lush region, filled with low grass valleys, trees, shrubs, and ferns. It had rivers, lakes and swamps.

As they advanced, the Tuareg came into contact with the Songhay and the Hausa, who were forced to acknowledge their regime. Raids against sedentary settlements and caravans were central to their ethos and hierarchy, and increased their herds of cattle. Because of their swift camels and superior weapons, the Tuareg generally had the better of their enemies. The Tuareg also conquered the Harratine who were a farming people of Negroid stock. These people were not trained for war and gave in without a struggle. In return for protection from other desert marauders, they agreed to give the Tuareg half their garden produce. Thereafter they continued to farm their land as serfs.



Location:

Tuareg country ranges from Savannah in the south, with 10-20 inches of rain per year, to barren desert in the north, dominated by the mountains of Ahaggar, Tassilin-ajjer, Adrar-n-Foras and Air. The northern region is very hot in summer, often reaching temperatures of 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Violent winds are also very common and add considerably to the discomfort of the climate. A sandstorm does far more damage than rain and they are much feared. Traveling is extremely hard under such conditions and most people spend the day in the shade of rocks and trees, sleeping and drinking water. The rains in the Sahara are irregular, and in some places it has not rained for 6 years. In contrast, it is not uncommon for snow to fall on the higher slopes of the Ahaggar during winter.
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« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2007, 09:41:27 pm »








Their Characteristics:

There are a number of distinguishing characteristics of the Tuareg. Firstly, there is a unity of their language which forms part of the Berber language group, and has four main branches or dialects, which are on the whole, mutually intelligible. The language is commonly known as Tamajeq and Tamasheq. Secondly, the alphabet, known as tifnar, is known to all Tuareg groups and is related to an ancient Libyan script. The Tuareg language is the only Berber dialect with a written form. Most Tuareg men know one or two languages as well as their mother tongue. Thirdly, they have a very complex social organization, with both matrilineal and matriarchal elements.

Although the Tuareg are primarily tribal, there are 7 major confederations that bear geographical place names, thus identifying them with the region they call their homeland. They are the Kel Antessar; the Kel Ahaggar; the Kel Ajjer; the Kel Air; the Aullliminden or Iullemmeden; the Kel Adrar-n-Iforas or Iforas; and the Udulan, Kel Gossi and several other tribes south of the Niger River. Each tribe is made up of several clans, which are further divided into groups of families.

Within the society, the main division is between the noble class (Ihaggaren or Amaher) and the vassal classes (Imrad). In the past each of the noble tribes with its respective vassals formed a political unit, under a chief whose authority was symbolized by a drum. The drum chief held supreme political and judicial authority in the drum group, and it was he who had to regulate all relations between nobles and vassals within that unit.

In most Tuareg groups there are also whole tribes of Ineslemen or Marabouts (the religious class established after the introduction of Islam) led by their own chiefs. The relationship between Ihaggarenm Imrad and Ineslemen was deeply affected by European intervention. The noble class was decimated during the revolt against the French in 1917 and today represents probably no more than 15% of the total Tuareg population.

Both manual labor and domestic service are performed by the third class in the Tuareg society. This class is composed of heterogeneous and ethnically mixed peoples living in symbiotic relationship with their masters, the Tuareg. Many were originally slaves, taken during raids and warfare in the south or brought from Sudanese slave markets. The iklan take care of herding, cooking, and all other domestic chores. The artisans and smiths of the Tuareg are known as the inaden. The Tuareg hold these two groups, along with the Harratine, in low social esteem.

Chieftainship is male, but is hereditary through the female line, within fairly broad and seemingly rather indefinite limits of degree of relationship, so that an undesirable heir apparent can easily be passed over in favor of a less direct but more acceptable heir.

Tribal chiefs act as judges, and in principle, have the power of life and death. However, in their national role, such as when they are dealing with neighboring or foreign tribes, the amenokal's decisions do not have full authority unless they have first been approved by an assembly of notables called the arollan.   
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« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2007, 09:42:47 pm »








People of the Veil:


In direct contrast to Arab custom, all Tuareg men wear a veil or tidjelmoust, while their women are unveiled. The men's veil, is the most distinctive and arresting article of clothing among the Tuareg. Self-respecting Tuareg think it shockingly indecent for a man to let his mouth be seen by anyone to whom he owes formal respect; nor will he show his face to anyone whose social standing he considers superior to his own. Both young men and young women adopt the veil or headcloth at initiation or marriage, which indicates that their social functions are identical. The most preferred veils are dyed indigo, though many make do with black ones.

Tuareg attitudes to etiquette are not easily described in words, for gait, gestures and postures all express qualities of elegance, arrogance, refinement and strength. Vanity in regard to dress and ornaments is further characteristic of all true Tuareg and many men wear Islamic amulets which they believe make them great and important. Prestige is a constant concern of the Tuareg, who are much more sophisticated than the other peoples living within their country. 
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« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2007, 09:43:59 pm »








Lifestyle:


 Before the arrival of the Europeans most Tuareg were nomadic stockbreeders, with large herds of camels, cattle, sheep and goats. Many Tuareg remain nomadic, moving their herds between dry and rainy season pastures according to the quality and distribution of rainfall (transhumance). The Ahaggaren Tuareg of Algeria pitch their camps in or close to mountain masifs, of which the most important are Ahaggar and Tassili-n-Ajjer. Rainfall is irregular, and a persistent vegetation cannot generally exist outside river valleys and depressions. Pasturage is either very sparse or very scattered, with the result that the people are continually breaking up into small and highly mobile camp units moving at intervals of between a week to a month, always within the territorial limits of the tribe.

The Tuareg also came to prominence as caravaners in the Saharan and Sahelian regions at the beginning of the fourteenth century, when trade routes to the lucrative salt, gold, ivory and slave markets in North Africa, Europe and the Middle East sprang up across Tuareg territory. Nobles controlled the caravan trade, owned most of the camels, and remained more nomadic, coming into the oasis only to collect a proportion of the harvest from their client and servile people.

The caravan trade still persists today in the region between the Air Mountains and Kano, Nigeria. Men from Air spend five to seven months each year on camel caravans, travelling to Bilma for dates and salt, and then to Kano to trade them for millet and other foodstuffs, household tools, and luxury items such as spices, perfume and cloth.

Although the Tuareg generally live on the products of their animals, owing to natural disasters and political tensions, it is now increasingly difficult to make a living solely from nomadic stockbreeding. Most rural Tuareg combine subsistence methods, practicing herding, oasis gardening, caravan trading and migrant labor. The basic elements of their diet are milk, millet, and dates. Enele (millet), is cultivated both in the Saharan oases and the Sudan. It is usually crushed with pestles and winnowed to keep only the white flour, which is used in many dishes. Meat is highly preferred, but is eaten irregularly for as a rule, the nomads do not care to slaughter their animals just for food. On special occasions, the meat most used is that of goats, and camel is only eaten in really exceptional circumstances.

When camel milk is fresh, it has a very sweet flavor. People drink both fresh and sour camel and goat milk, and they eat dried cheese made from this milk. They also bake little flat cakes, made of millet and ground wild seeds. Couscous is a famous Tuareg dish. It is often used to male a sort of stew, with tiny grains of dough rolled from barley or millet, cooked with a small amount of vegetables and butter.

Shelter takes the form of small lightweight tents of leather or sometimes grass huts. The average size of a tent is about ten feet deep and ten to fifteen feet wide. The average household can pack its goods on the backs of two camels, while a donkey or two may be used to carry the odds and ends. Clothing is loose, voluminous, and light in weight. A Tuareg would also consider himself undressed if he does not carry a knife. Women go barefaced but with a head kerchief.

There are two main festivals for unmarried young people, and these courtship gatherings are called Tendis and Ahals. Most Tuareg men marry late, as a young Tuareg has to own quite a few camels to help pay the bride price, and he must accumulate a large enough flock to feed his family and have extra to sell to buy his household needs.

The usual age for marriage is twenty to twenty-five for women and close to thirty for men. Marriage is usually, though not always, within the clan. Cross-cousin marriage seems to be the preferred pattern, and always involves a bride price, which varies according to the beauty and social standing of the bride and the wealth of the husband. Wedding festivities take place in the bride's camp.

A newly married couple live in the camp of the bride's parents for about a year, then usually move over to the camp of the husband. Monogamy is the universal rule, and divorce is both unusual and generally frowned upon.

Tuareg children are socialized into distinct, culturally defined masculine and feminine gender roles. This is partly because male authority figures such as chiefs, Islamic scholars, and wealthy gardeners, remain at home rather than departing on caravans and engaging in migrant labor, and these men exert considerable influence in young boys, who attend Qur'anic schools and assist in male tasks such as gardening and herding. Young girls tend to remain nearer home, assisting their mothers with household chores, although women and girls also herd animals.

Between the ages of five and seven the boys are circumcised, and they undergo their first initiation into manhood. At the age of fifteen or sixteen, the father gives his son a blue veil. This is usually done at the annual Muslim feast. Upon wearing the veil, the boy has entered the class of men.

In Tuareg culture, there is a great appreciation of visual and verbal arts. There is a large body of music, poetry, and song that is of central importance during courtship, rites of passage, and secular festivals. Visual arts consist primarily of metalwork, some woodwork, and dyed and embroidered leatherwork, all of which are specialities of smiths, who formerly manufactured these products solely for their noble patrons.

Women play a single chord violin, the imzad, the sound box of which is made by stretching a skin across an enamel bowl. A drum is similarly made by stretching a wet skin across a grain mortar and the men sometimes play a wooden flute. Parties are held around the campfires in the evening and both men and women sing. 
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« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2007, 09:45:05 pm »








Difficulties:


Over a period of years, the colonial powers imposed a series of conventions regulating and limiting nomadic movements to specific territories for each federation, and post independence frontiers further restricted movements. Wells were improved and their edges cemented in order to improve livestock production; and disease prevention and eradication campaigns carried out. As a result the total number of livestock increased dramatically, resulting in serious overgrazing of pastures.

Realizing by early autumn 1972 that the rains had failed disastrously after a run of bad years, the nomads and their families were forced to trek south in search of pasture for their herds. This massive southward migration intensified as water supplies began to fail, and generated conflicts over rights and obligations among the people and governments of the region. Many animals perished of thirst and hunger or simply from fatigue during the long journey; others were slaughtered prematurely or sold at buyer's prices. Thousands of Tuareg nomads, having lost everything drifted to the bigger villages and towns, where they set up cowhide shelters and lean to shanties on the outskirts of the settlements.

In Algeria, the government was successful in its attempts to denomadize local Tuareg, In the wake of Algeria's oil and gas boom and the 1968-1974 drought in the southern Sahel, most Algerian Tuareg opted for urban life. However, development programs involving the Tuareg that were initiated from the 1940's to the 1970's failed miserably because they worked against the traditional pastoral production systems.

The rains in 1974 were good, but they did not wash away the serious economic and social effects of the drought, and life for the Tuareg was never to be the same. Many Tuareg tempted by the less rigorous urban life never returned to their original homes.

Further catastrophic droughts in 1982-1985 drove thousands more of the Tuareg from Mali and Niger into Algeria and Libya. In 1987, Niger and Mali invited them to return but once they were home the governments failed to honor prior promises and kept the Tuareg in detention camps and deprived them of aid. In Niger an army massacre at Tchin Tarabadene became the signal for a general Tuareg revolt in 1990. Just prior to this time, some of the Tuareg men (calling themselves ishumar - unemployed) left for Libya, where they received military training and weapons. In the early 1990's they returned to their homes and demanded their autonomy. When the revolt spread to the towns of Gao and Timbuktu in the Niger River Valley, it was brutally supressed and thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands fled to Algeria and Mauritania. 
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« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2007, 09:48:40 pm »








Beliefs:


Although the Tuareg still retain many of their pre-Islamic magico-religious beliefs and practices, they are all nominally Muslims. They have earned a reputation for being lukewarm as to Islamic practices and religion in general. Even the important annual Muslim fast of Ramadan is not generally observed. The Tuareg revert to a passive form of Islam which is permeated by local superstition and magic. Amulets are very common, and belief in jinns and spirits is not confined to women. Several Marabout and Shorfa families are found in the area, and some run Qur'anic schools in the garden centers. These Marabouts may be called upon by the Tuareg to write amulets or to say prayers at funerals, but in no way are they as active or powerful as they are in the rest of North and West Africa.

Important rituals among the Tuareg are usually at the various rites of passage such as namedays, weddings, and memorial/funeral feasts as well as Islamic holidays.




Conclusion:


Despite much romanticizing about the Tuareg, (which was probably fueled by the mystery attached to their remoteness and general inaccessibility and their habit of killing early European travellers), the Tuareg have paid a heavy price for their maintaining their lifestyle. Their apparent leisurely lifestyle cannot conceal the real poverty of most Tuareg families, whose margin of safety from destitution or starvation is very narrow.


http://www.global12project.com/2004/profiles/clusters/tuareg.html
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« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2007, 09:51:24 pm »







The Tuareg population is made up of individuals of a white race of Libico-Bereber descent and of assimilated groups of other ethnicities. 'Being Tuareg' does not depend on race, wealth or social position. The Isekkemaren of Ahaggar (Algeria), descend from the mix of Tuareg women and Arab men from tribes with whom the Tuareg established temporary alliances. The Tasawaq or Ingalkoyyu of Niger, black populations of Songhai origin, are culturally Tuareg and speak Old Songhai which is deeply influenced by Tamasheq.


http://www.peoplesoftheworld.org/hosted/tuareg/








The inventive spirit and clever hands of the Tuareg are renowned for their artisanat, especially for the silver jewelry, which is truly marvelous. Tuareg women have a superstitious fear of gold; therefore, silver has replaced gold in the Tuareg tradition as the metal of choice. Silver jewelry is part of the inheritance of each Tuareg family. This jewelry holds not only a symbolic value but also serves as an economic resource.

Every piece of jewelry has a symbolic meaning, many now lost to history and forgotten. Each Tuareg necklace evokes diverse anecdotes or the complete history of a people or a place. Very often, the pendant represents a sultan's palace; the beads which make up the quarters are placed relative to the palace, the triangles designate the nomad tribes living in the wilderness, and the isolated points in the center of the pendant represent the sultan himself and his ministers. Other commonly used symbols include those of man, woman, pregnancy, and birth.
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« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2007, 11:13:48 am »

http://peacecorpsonline.org/messages/messages/467/2150017.html






Tom Seligman is director of Stanford's Cantor Arts Center, where his exhibition "Art of Being Tuareg: Sahara Nomads in a Modern World'' opens June 1, 2007






The fruit of decades of research and long-standing friendships, it's a dazzling show filled with beautifully crafted and adorned functional objects -- camel saddles of the sort Seligman rode in, tents, bags, swords, amulets, cushions, dresses, earrings, spoons and drums -- made of leather, wood and silver, bits of ebony, agate beads, brass and gold. Drawn from museums in the United States and Europe -- including UCLA's Fowler Museum, which created the exhibition with Stanford -- they express the qualities prized by mobile people who value aesthetic beauty in all things great and small: refinement, clarity of line, flawless workmanship.

Like people throughout the ages, Westerners, Arabs and Africans, Seligman was intrigued by the mystique of the Tuareg, who ruled the caravan trade routes through the vast Sahara for more than 1,000 years. They were often called the "blue people of the Sahara'' because of their trademark indigo-dyed cotton veil/turbans (tagulmust), worn by the men, which stain the skin blue. Masters of the harsh desert world, they were fierce fighters who valued their independence and freedom of movement.
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« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2007, 11:16:41 am »








RPCV Tom Seligman is director of Stanford's Cantor Arts Center, where his exhibition "Art of Being Tuareg: Sahara Nomads in a Modern World'' opens June 1






                                           The soul of the Sahara, brought alive in regal display






Jesse Hamlin,
Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, May 26, 2007

Tom Seligman set out on a 10-day camel trek through the Sahara on Christmas Day 1979 to photograph ancient rock paintings. The African-art scholar was fascinated by the Tuareg -- the proud North African nomads famous for their desert survival and fighting skills and for the elegance of their attire, carriage and art -- and he traveled the harsh terrain in a four-man caravan led by a Tuareg camel breeder named Azuri.

"By the end of the first 10-hour day, I was so exhausted I just laid down on the ground and slept. After a while I got conditioned, and I got into it,'' says Seligman, the director of Stanford's Cantor Arts Center, where the exhibition "Art of Being Tuareg: Sahara Nomads in a Modern World,'' opens Wednesday.

The fruit of decades of research and long-standing friendships, it's a dazzling show filled with beautifully crafted and adorned functional objects -- camel saddles of the sort Seligman rode in, tents, bags, swords, amulets, cushions, dresses, earrings, spoons and drums -- made of leather, wood and silver, bits of ebony, agate beads, brass and gold. Drawn from museums in the United States and Europe -- including UCLA's Fowler Museum, which created the exhibition with Stanford -- they express the qualities prized by mobile people who value aesthetic beauty in all things great and small: refinement, clarity of line, flawless workmanship.


Caption: Tuareg art and objects on display at the Cantor Arts Center include leather bags and saddle bags. Chronicle photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice

"This fringe is completely unnecessary, it's purely decorative,'' says Seligman, a tall man with a bushy white beard, pointing to an exquisitely detailed and crafted red and green leather bag made by a Tuareg woman in Niger, one of the modern African nations and former French colonies (the others include Mali, Algeria and Burkina Faso) where the Tuareg live and struggle to maintain their culture. "It's about embellishment, but it's also about movement. When the animal is moving, it's moving, creating vibrancy in the world. When the wind is blowing, your robes are blowing. The Tuareg prize the overall elegance of the piece, the motion of the piece, and the utility of the piece.

"There's a silver ring over there with a rattle inside of it. The notion of animating the world is very important to them, and the beautification of the world. The art of being a Tuareg is the art of being purposeful -- about your presentation to your family, your community, to the world -- and purposeful in the sense of being proper, respectful, composed and decorous.''
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