By Victoria Rovine
University of Florida (formerly University of Iowa)

Burkina Faso; Tuareg peoples


Brass, silver, stone

Private Collection of Nora Roy

The Tuareg nomads, who travel through the Sahara desert on the backs of their camels, wear clothing that clearly distinguishes them from other groups in the area. Along with white or indigo-blue robes, turbans, and veils (for men only), Tuareg men and women wear distinctive silver, and more recently aluminum, jewelry. Amulets are particularly dramatic examples of Tuareg jewelry traditions, for they combine a wide range of metalsmithing skills. This amulet incorporates hammering, repoussé, etching, and welding techniques. Each hollow silver amulet contains Koranic verses, written on paper by a Muslim cleric or scholar. The words themselves, according to Muslim belief, contain protective power. Encased in a container as fine as this, the amulet also serves as a prestige object and as a declaration of one's status as a Tuareg and as a Muslim.