Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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7 / Domestic Life

Bag (taghrek)
Bag (taghrek)
Artist / Origin Andi Ouhoulou (Tuareg, Kel Ewey, n.d.), Agadez, Niger
Region: Africa
Date 2004
Material Leather, pigment, metal
Dimensions H: 40 in. (102 cm.), W: 24 in. (61 cm.), D: 2 in. (5.1 cm.)
Location Private Collection
Credit Courtesy of Thomas Seligman, Cantor Center for the Visual Arts, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

expert perspective

Thomas K. SeligmanDirector of Cantor Arts for the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University

Additional Resources

Albacete, M.J. “Tuareg Art and Artisans.” African Arts 11.4 (July 1978): 82–84.

“Art of Being Tuareg: Sahara Nomads in a Modern World. (October 10, 2007–January 27, 2008).” In Exhibits. National Museum of African Art web site. http://www.nmafa.si.edu/exhibits/tuareg.

Loughran, Kristyne. “Jewelry, Fashion, and Identity: The Tuareg Example.” African Arts 36.1 (Spring 2003): 52–65, 93.

Rasmussen, Susan J. “Gendered Discourses and Mediated Modernities: Urban and Rural Performances of Tuareg Smith Women.” Journal of Anthropological Research 59.4 (Winter 2003): 487–509.

Rasmussen, Susan J. “Art as Process and Product: Patronage and the Problem of Change in Tuareg Blacksmith/Artisan Roles.” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 65.4 (1995): 592–610.

Seligman, Thomas K., et al. Art of Being Tuareg: Sahara Nomads in a Modern World. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History, University of California, 2006.

Bag (taghrek)

» Andi Ouhoulou (Tuareg, Kel Ewey, n.d.), Agadez, Niger

Traditionally a semi-nomadic, pastoral people, the Tuareg are spread out over the central Sahara, inhabiting regions of what today are the nations of Algeria, Libya, Mali, Niger, and to a lesser extent, Nigeria and Burkina Faso.

The environment they live in is one of the harshest on earth. Despite this, or perhaps in response to it, the Tuareg take care to make the objects that they use in their everyday lives not just functional, but also beautiful. Camel saddles, tent poles, jewelry, pillows, tools, and leather bags like this one, thus, become statements of identity and pride in the Tuareg way of life.

Tuareg culture is organized in a class system. Artists and smiths, called inadan, belong to their own class, which also includes poets, musicians, healers, and others. The inadan specialize in various art forms, generally based on gender divisions. The men are usually metal smiths, while the women work primarily in fiber and leather arts. Andi Ouhoulou, the woman who created this bag, is renowned for leatherwork. Her husband, Saidi Oumba, is a jewelry maker.

Bags like this one are traditionally made of goat leather, which is colored with natural dyes to obtain rich earth tones and vibrant colors. Ouhoulou has decorated this fringed, leather bag with geometric motifs and tribal patterns. Tassels have been added to either side. The bag exhibits a number of qualities that appeal to Tuareg notions of beauty, which is discussed in terms of “brightness,” “evenness,” “balance,” and “organization.”

For over two millennia, the Tuareg people thrived as traders, crossing the Sahara in large camel caravans destined for markets on the desert’s periphery. In the twentieth century, various factors upset that traditional nomadic lifestyle. Today, many Tuareg have settled in villages and towns and adopted modern conveniences. While they continue to produce domestic and personal items with great artistry for their own use, Tuareg inadan such as Andi Ouhoulou and Saidi Oumba now participate in a global economy, creating goods for foreign as well as local clientele.


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