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Taureg Jewelry

Taureg Jewelry

  • Baiyinah Brookins

The Tuareg is an ancient Saharan group of people that has existed for over 2000 years. These semi-nomadic and pastoralist people occupy and operate in the sub-Saharan nations like Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Libya. They are known for playing a role in the trans-Saharan caravan trade and breeding livestock. The Tuareg people speak the Tamasheq language, whose origin is in North Africa. They also write using an ancient hieroglyphic script called Tifinagh: roots from Berber. Most of them are Muslims.

Over the years, the Tuareg have tried to preserve their culture in beliefs, traditions, rituals, magical and mystical views, and religious views by passing them down through the generations. They have enshrined most of them in the local crafts in; magical and mystical forms and symbols by producing their jewels, amulets, talismans, and other commodities. They have extensively used silver, metals, wood, leather, and stone to make these items in designs that are very decorative and with religious or magical connotations and function.

What is in the Tuareg Jewelry?

Among the items that the Tuaregs make, their Jewels outstand. Notably, most of their jewels possess great significance and denotes a given event or function. For instance, the Air Cross (Ay ir), which contains a sword and spear at the center, delineates the Tuareg Resistance of Colonization and the conflict that arose between them and the Berber. 

Other Jewelry includes:

  • The Agadez Cross that a father gives to his son on the attainment of 15 years. The cross has four points that denote the four corners of the world, meaning that the father has allowed his son to travel to any place they wish.
  • The Celebra necklace is an ornament that people wear on big occasions, especially the Tuareg feasts. It has many silver shapes that typify all the feast attendants.
  • The Shat Shat is an engagement necklace that the bride receives from her future groom. It is a promise of marriage, and it contains forms standing for the Tuareg tents: a symbol of a future family. A woman will have only one Shat Shat in a lifetime.
  • Men and women wear the Tcherot talisman with a Quranic script to protect them.
  • Some modern jewelry like Agate Necklaces, rings, and earrings do not have a specific time to wear them.

How do the Tuaregs make their Jewelry?

The Tuareg artisans make all the Tuareg Jewelry every day to preserve their culture and to earn a living. These artisans are a repository of the rich history of the community since time immemorial.

To be an artisan, one must invoke supernatural strengths and special powers to protect their workshops from Jinns and spirits. They then go for the correct silver for the jewel in the market, though they used old silver coins in the past. The silver undergoes some melting, cooling before the artisan starts to design and shape it to the item they desire. The artisans make all the decorations by their hands using rods and other basic engraving instruments. Finally, they use puncheons for the final decorations and ornaments. The prominent Tuareg production place is at Agadez in Niger.

 

Image: via https://www.famsf.org/blog/faces-fair-trade 

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