Town Square

Modern nomads

Original post made on Jun 11, 2007

A camel and a 4x4 truck. Cantor Arts Center director Thomas Seligman likes to use this improbable pair to illustrate the world of the Tuareg people of West Africa.

Read the full story here Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Paul Rankin
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2007 at 8:39 am

An initiative for nurturing the oral heritage of nomadic cultures.

This wonderful exhibition about the Tuareg finding their place in the modern world should remind us that artefacts in a museum are but tangible tokens to the intangible: in this case a rich living oral culture of ancient artistry, knowledge, wisdom, poetry, music and stories. The stories of the Tuareg, like those of other minority cultures, encapsulate different ways of viewing the world and behaving, ways of living in harmony with the environment and fostering biodiversity that are fast vanishing.

We would like to bring to your attention a new non-profit, 'Living Cultural Storybases' which will be working with Tuareg communities later this year.
This community-empowerment work is a part of a global venture against the accelerating disappearance of cultural diversity being incubated in California, supported by the Christensen Fund.

The retelling of traditional and personal stories is vital for cultural transmission, group solidarity, ethnic identity and evaluation of change. We would like your support to create living networks of stories and songs for minority communities to share, celebrate and re-interpret their cultural knowledge, i.e. self-empowering narratives.

Our engagement with Tuareg nomads aims to show how new, more appropriate digital technologies can provide information and communication even in remote deserts and across countries. This can strengthen Tuareg dialogue across the generations, between scattered nomadic groups and with their urban diaspora in their own language, Tamasheq.

We are looking for skilled volunteers who would like to get involved and sponsors for our 501c(3) organization. Do contact us!
website: Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2007 at 10:16 am

Did the cities on their route make sanitary provisions for them? Did the cities set aside caravansaries for the nomads? Did the nomads respect the property and customs of the cities they stopped at?

Like this comment
Posted by Helene E. Hagan
a resident of Southgate
on Jun 11, 2007 at 11:32 am

My name is Helene E. Hagan. I am a native of North Africa, an Amazigh (Berber) and an anthropologist (degree from Stanford University.)

I am the President of a non-profit organization called Tazzla Institute for Cultural Diversity which has worked with Tuaregs of Niger since 1997. We are the US. offical partner of the Tuareg ONG "Tedhilt" of Niger. Please go to our site to see our Tuareg School Project. In addition, I served for four years on the board of directors of the national Amazigh Cultural Association in America, whose mission is to educate the American public on Berber and Tuareg Amazigh issues. I am still a member of that association.

In regards to this Art of Being Tuareg Exhibit, with which I was seriously involved when it started its life at UCLA in November 2006 before moving to Stanford recently:

1. It must be noted that the family of artisans or "inadans" implicated in this Exhibit is part of a group which does not truly represent the nomadic and semi-nomadic warrior groups of the Kel Tamashek of Niger (Tuaregs.) The origins and ethnicity of the Koumama family showcased in that Exhibit are different from that of the Imazighen, who are those called "Tuaregs" a point made in the catalogue by Tom Seligman, the Curator of the Exhibit, but not too clear in all the publicity around the Exhibit that I have seen.

2. The acculturation of which Tom Seligman makes so much, again, pertains to a certain family of artisans which settled in Agadez some time ago. They are not the actual descendants of the people called Imazighen, who are the true live carriers of the "Tuareg" culture and I dont see how they can claim to be - or be presented to the American public as - the representatives of the Tuareg culture. They are one group of the complex Tuareg social tapestry - a group of servants from a different ethnic origin - that was assimilated into the Tuareg culture. This group is today less dependant upon the patron-client relationship that was established in the past, and in the cities have evolved away from a more traditional community of Tuaregs and intermarried with Hausa and other black people of their surrounding communities.

3. The ones who really need help are the children of the desert omadic families of Tuaregs, far more so than the children of the group of 'inadans" of the cities. My good friend, who is the president of the ONG "Tedhilt, Vie et Developpement" with thirteen schools in the desert, needs wells, school supplies, food, and first aid kits for those schools. If you want to help, this is where to start.. Food, health care, blankets, shoes, water, goats. The computers will do fine, only after those primary needs are met.


Helene Hagan

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2007 at 1:15 pm

Thank you, Ms. Hagen, you answer part of my question.