Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1899 Tuareg amenoukal
Subjectamenoukal noble warrior
Culture: Tuareg
Setting: French wars, western Sahara late 19th-early 20thc

Context (Event Photos, Period Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Porch 2005 p65
"There was probably no people who excited the curiosity of nineteenth-century Europeans more than the inhabitants of the central Sahara -- the Tuareg.  Their appearance was in great part responsible for this fascination: tall, dressed in flowing black robes, armed with a spear, broadsword and shield, the head of each Targui warrior swathed in a litham recalling the visored helmets of medieval knights, from which only their eyes were visible.  They disclaimed firearms as 'the arms of treachery,' more, one suspects, because they had so few of them rather than out of any moral commitment to the armes blanches.  Perched on their camels, these men looked still more impressive.  Their quasi-medieval appearance, together with the fact that their saddles, swords and shields made of gazelle hide were decorated with the cross, led some to conclude that the Tuareg were Christians who had been driven into the desert by the Arab invasions of the seventh and eleventh centuries.  As if to give substance to this view, the Arabs themselves sometimes called them 'the Christians of the desert,' and Tuareg ... is an Arabic word meaning the abandoned by God, a reference to the fact that for many years this Berber race rejected Islam and finally adopted it in only a halfhearted fashion.  The Tuareg referred to themselves as the 'Kel Tagelmoust' -- 'The People of the Veil.'
    "The romantic fantasy that the Tuareg were Christian infidels was soon dispelled by the evidently total absence of Christian sentiments among them.  Travelers soon discovered that the Tuareg were ruthless brigands.  'The scorpion and the Tuareg are the only enemies you meet in the desert,' the Arabs were fond of saying.  'Pillage is our work,' they told outsiders.  'With the Tuareg,' wrote Henri Schirmer, 'the idea that man is free and a brigand is so inseparable that the same verb (Iohagh) means "he is free" and "he pillages."'  'It is useless to appeal to their hearts,' the German traveler Nachtigal declared.  'They would not understand you.'"

* de Prorok 2004 p81 (writing in 1929)
​"The chief pastime of the veiled ones is the sport of raiding. As soon as the Tuareg is old enough to ride a camel his one ambition is to raid, and he finds ready teachers to assist him in the realization of his dreams. Distances are nothing to these pirates of the sands. They have been known to ride, when forced, a hundred miles in a day, but as a rule they do about forty miles and this, considering the nature of the terrain, is indeed a good average.
      "The early training of the Tuareg youth is Spartan-like in its severity. From the day a Tuareg boy takes the veil (at about the age of fifteen) he is considered to have come into man's estate. Then, proceeding on the theory that he is made of iron, his elders no longer make the way easy for him. He can go four or five days without water, and can go without food for more than a week. Such denial, to all appearances, in no way lessens his physical stamina, and it is certain that it places no drain upon his resolute spirit. Perhaps this can be accounted for in some measure by the fact that he is generally half starved, is all muscle and brawn, and has not the slightest chance to become obese. He is always dieting -- involuntarily.
      "A Tuareg has been known to travel a thousand kilometers (over six hundred miles) on foot, carrying his water and food on his back! It is due to their unequaled endurance and stoical indifference to hardship and suffering that they have been dreaded since time immemorial by all the other races of Africa.
      "Their raids are swift and sudden. As a rule they attack a camp at dawn; there follows a hand to hand fight of unbelievable intensity and vigor and they are gone, rapidly diminishing specks on the boundless horizon. They will raid an oasis camp or caravan a thousand miles from the scene of the planning and then retire into their mountain fastness where they will 'be low' for months."

* Nicolle/Hook 1989 p10 (describing reaction to the French-Sanussi war)
"Tuareg drum-groups who refused to make peace with the French had already migrated to Ghat and Ghadames in Libya, where they joined forces with the Sanussi to take revenge against the European invader.  Fortunately for the French the Tuareg tribes or drum-groups could never unify.  Even the symbolic authority of a regional amenoukal or leader was only agreed after endless discussion, and there were three main drum-groups in the mountainous Ahaggar region of the central Sahara alone.  While the Arab tribes had always been better armed then their Berber-speaking Tuareg rivals, the Tuareg themselves were now getting captured Italian rifles.  By 1914 Tuareg military and social structure was also changing.  Traditionally only the nobility owned the camels vital to movement in the deep desert, and only they could wear the double-edged takouba swords which symbolised their status.  The vassals traditionally took no part in war; but since the turn of the century some nobles had armed their vassals, who thus became warriors in their own right, increasingly claiming a political voice and probably dominating warfare as they outnumbered the old nobility by eight to one.  Traditional Tuareg tactics had despised firearms, because they possessed so few, and instead spears were hurled from camel-back before hand-to-hand combat with swords.  By 1914, however, they had developed considerable skill with their newly acquired rifles."

* Khazanov/Wink eds. 2001 p257-258 (Victor Azarya, "The nomadic factor in Africa: Dominance or marginality" p250-284)
"In the pre-colonial period, the Tuareg controlled the trade routes that crossed the Sahara between North Africa and the Sahel region of West Africa.  They often raided the caravans, or offered them protection in return for taxes, and occasionally engaged in commercial activities themselves.  They were known to maintain a commercial presence in the towns of the Sahel which were the distribution points for the trans-Saharan trade.  The Tuareg also subjugated sedentary agriculturalist black populations of the Sahel, such as Hausa or Songhay, levied regular taxes from them, and took slaves who were established in separate villages to cultivate crops for their masters.
    "The Tuareg were a constant threat to the states of the Sahel.  However, they did not form states of their own.  They lived under the authority of warrior chiefs and were organized in loose tribal confederations which often waged wars against each other as much as against other groups.  In the nineteenth century, an attempt to establish a more centralized political structure in Kel Gress (in today's Niger) failed dismally and provoked a serious political crisis.  The Tuareg were also allied with those who opposed the Fulbe state-formation efforts in the nineteenth century as they rightly perceived that the Fulbe-ruled states would endanger their freedom of action in the Sahel and would create a serious new competition for their dry season pastures in the south.
    "The Tuareg, like the Maasai, stressed very much their military skills and nurtured an image of fierce raiders.  The importance attributed to military functions was apparent in the fact that the warrior class occupied the highest status in a very rigid stratification system.  Unlike the revolving age-group system of the Maasai in which status positions were generally not inherited and every male had, in principle, the opportunity to reach the position of senior elder as part of his lifecycle, the Tuareg society was based on a rigid hierarchy, irrespective of age.  At the top of the hierarchy stood the families belonging to the warrior class."

* Spring 1993 p27-28
"The French invasion of the region [northwest African Sahara and Sahel] which began in 1899 was vigorously opposed, despite the outdated collection of firearms which the Tuareg possessed.  Not until 1917, when a large scale insurrection was ruthlessly suppressed, did concerted opposition cease.  At that date the Tuareg not only lost a large proportion of their aristocratic warrior elite, but also an entire way of life.  In common with many pastoralist people of Eastern Africa the main preoccupation of the Tuareg had been in raiding, though in their case for camels rather than cattle, as well as for salt, slaves and other booty.  Raiding was almost exclusively carried out by the aristocratic class, Ihaggaren, whereas trading, goat herding and other lowly occupations were undertaken by the vassal class, Imrad.  A third stratum of Tuareg society, the Iklan, was composed mainly of negroid peoples who over many centuries had been captured in warfare or bought as slaves.  The Iklan tended to perform tasks such as cultivating, smithing and other crafts which were not considered appropriate for either Ihaggaren or Imrad.  Thus a mutually beneficial symbiosis took place in Tuareg society which was irrevocably changed by the intervention of the colonial powers in the early twentieth century."

Costume (Veil, Jewelry, Robe)

* Blanguernon 1955 p109-110
"La grande allure des Touareg, si impressionnante pour qui arrive au Hoggar, est due, pour beaucoup, aux vêtements qu'ils portent.  La silhouette des <<hommes violés>> est désormais familière.  L'ampleur des vêtements et la légèreté du tissu qui favorise les drapés harmonieux semblent exagérer la taille des hommes comme celle des femmes.  Nombreux sont les voyageurs européens qui laissent errer leur imagination, parlant de fantômes bleus, se livrant à des comparaisons aussi irréeles qu'évocatrices.  Il faut, ici, dépouiller, au sens propre, les Touareg de cette auréole poétique." ...

* Harrold/Legg 1978 p140 caption
"The central Sahara Desert is the home of the nomadic Tuareg.  It is here that the men are veiled and the women unveiled.  At the end of boyhood, men are given the blue veil, the tagilmus or taguelmost which they wear for the rest of their lives.  The tagilmus is a strip of indigo-blue cotton about 3m (10ft) in length.  This is wound around the  head in a special way, forming a turban.  It covers the eyebrows and lower part of the face, but the lower folds over the mouth are loose and can be lifted for eating.  The cotton material used for the garment is dyed indigo from plants found in the Sudan.  The dye easily stains the body, so the Tuaregs have earned the name 'Blue Men'.  Both men and women wear rather broad, open-toed sandals with thick rawhide soles, which give a firm grip on sand and are also a protection against scorpions and thorns."

* Anawalt 2007 p572
"Among the nobles, dress conveys honor and dignity.  In the precolonial social order, the wearing and use of voluminous robes, men's face veils, and such accessories as a sword, silver jewelry and amulets, as well as the use of the white camel, were governed by sumptuary laws that restricted certain attire to nobles.  For Tuareg men, and particularly for the nobles, dress styles emphasize the head, height and vertical lines, reflecting the positive value of endurance and toughness of the old warriors who dominated the society.  Rural men are still generally lean and muscular from a life spent roaming the desert."

* Krüger ed. 1969 p95-96 (Peter Fuchs, "The peoples of the Sahara" p88-143)
"An upper-class Tuareg warrior wears loose cotton trousers, a loose sleeveless shirt, and over it an indigo-colored gandurah.  Across his chest are two multicolored silk sashes ending in rows of tassels at the hips.  The veil is of white or indigo-colored cotton and covers the whole of the face except the eyes.  The hair is worn long, braided into one or more plaits.  His sandals of ox or goat hide are richly embroidered in green and red.  The Tuareg's favorite color is indigo, and the color of their indigo clothing comes off onto their skins, which is why the Tuareg are frequently referred to as the blue men."

* Kennett 1995 p81
"The traditional male garment of the Tuareg is a draped cloak or k'sa, also of indigo blue cotton or wool.  This measures about 6 yards (5.5 meters) in length and is worn over a long shirt or kumya and pantaloons.  Sometimes a long, West African all-purpose robe, or gandoura, may be worn instead.  A headcloth, or tagelmoust, is essential as protection against desert storms and sand.  Usually blue or white in color, the cloth is tied so that it covers virtually the whole face.  A Tuareg man never lifts the veiling from his face even to eat, but slips his tea or finger-held food underneath it."


* Blanguernon 1955 p113-114
"Aucun Targui n'entreprend un déplacement important sans être muni de sa <<takouba>>, cette épée qu'il porte au côté et qui lui donne cette allure moyenâgeuse semblant le fair sortir d'un livre d'images.  Certaines takoubas atteignent la valeur de deux jeunes chameaux: elles se distinguent grâce aux rayures de la lame et à l'estampille marquée par le maalem.  La première qualité de takouba ou <<tazraït>> présente cinq rainures sur sa lame et un rond dont le diamètre vertical est surmonté d'une croix; une tazraït doit couper une entrave de chameau enfoncée dans du sable, dont seulement cinq centimètres dépassent.  Le type <<arlal>>, bien que dépourvu de rayures, porte la même marque que la tazraït, c'est une excellente takouba aussi estimêe que la précédente.  La <<tallit>>, de valeur sensiblement équivalente, également sans rayures, possède la même marque que la tazraït, doublée d'un lion stylisé.  Une <<inaseri>> coûte moitié moins cher: on y voit trois rayures et un dessin en forme de croissant avec trois pointes dirigées vers le centre.  D'un prix égal, la <<tabloq>> possède une longue rainure médiane et s'orne d'une silhouette de lion.  L'<<adadiglen>> n'a jamais été l'arme d'un lâche; elle vaut une tabloq; elle présente une longue rainure médiane flanquée de deux petites rainures; de chaque côté de la grande rainure, deux K se tournent le dos.  L'<<elghenihé>> est une épée beaucomp plus rare, bien qu'elle ne vaille que la moitié dune adadiglien; elle na qu'un seul tranchant, trois grandes rainures et un croissant avec une pointe dirigée vers le centre.  La <<tama>>, beaucoup plus commune, vaut à peine la moitié de l'elghenihé; on la reconnaît à sa rainure médiane, à deux petites rainures parallèles et à deux croissants dont une seule pointe se dirige vers le centre." ...

* Withers 2010 p86
"This sword was used by the nomadic Tuareg tribes of the middle and western Sahara from the 16th century, and is still carried to this day.  Up to 1m (3.3ft) in length, the takouba blade is wide and double-edged with three or more hand-ground fullers, or grooves, and a rounded point.  The hilt is of simple, cruciform shape.  The sword and scabbard are normally worn with a long tasselled baldric (shoulder belt) slung over the right shoulder."

* Stone 1934 p601
"TAKOUBA.  The Tuareg sword.  It is a straight-bladed, single-edged sword with no guard.  There is a crosspiece below the pommel which gives the cruciform effect which so many implements show."  [NOTE: Stone's definition of this term is contrary to every other (ie. doubled-edged and with a guard), but he does illustrate an example of his type.] 

* Spring 1993 p30
"The Tuareg sword, takouba, is invariably the product of many hands.  The blades are often of European origin, while the tooled leather sheath and baldric straps may be the work of Hausa craftsmen.  The Tuareg smiths, inaden, who assemble the takouba, are themselves usually of Sudanic African rather than Berber ancestry.  Today the takouba is very much a sword of the Central Sudan, worn by the well-to-do men of a number of peoples from the region.  Yet together with the ayar shield, the takouba was once considered to be the prerogative of the Ihaggaren only.  The embellishment on both sword and sheath, whether produced for a Tuareg client or not, expresses a symbolic language which has its origins in Berber culture.  The placing of particular motifs on certain parts of the sword still displays a uniformity of method." ... [citation omitted]

* Richardson 2015 p68
"In the central Sahara another cross-hilted sword was used by the Tuareg, called the takouba.  It is easily distinguished from the kaskara, having a narrower and deeper cross-guard, formed of wood and leather.  The blades of these swords are shorter than those of the eastern Saharan swords."

* Feest 1980 p61 f67
"The long, straight tacouba is the major weapon of the Tuareg of the Sahara.  Having become part of the male dress, it has survived all other Tuareg arms.  The design on the pommel refers to the shield -- a magical device believed to be helpful in splitting the enemy's means of defence."


* Richardson 2015 p68-69
"An unusual type of dagger is found in this area, particularly in Chad and southern Libya, the arm-knife, telek or loi-bo, so called because it is carried on the forearm, by a loop attached to the scabbard throat.  The loop on the scabbard fits round the arm, enabling the knife to be carried conveniently.  These knives are also called 'robe knives', as they are covered by the sleeve of the robe."

* Spring 1993 p30
"The arm dagger is a weapon habitually used by peoples of the Sahara and Sudanic Africa.  It is worn in a sheath attached to the inner side of the left forearm by a loop, usually of leather but sometimes of metal or other materials.  The blade points to the elbow and the hilt rests against the inside of the wrist, from which position it can be quickly drawn.  As with the takouba the blade is often of European manufacture.  Broken swords were sometimes filed down into arm dagger blades.  Bayonets were also occasionally used after the advent of the colonial period.  The types of arm dagger predominantly used among the Tuareg are collectively known as telek, though in the Air region they are known as gozma and in the Hoggar as rilok.  The hilts are variations of the design feature known as the 'Cross of Agades' which is widely used in Tuareg material culture on anything from finger rings to saddle pommels."

* Stone 1934 p609-610
"TELEK.  The Tuareg knife.  It has a straight, double-edged blade and the pommel is a cross.  The entire handle is often wound with brass wire.  The leather scabbard has a wide leather ring attached to it which is put over the left wrist; the knife lays flat against the inner side of the arm, the handle being in the hand of the wearer.  The knife is drawn with the right hand.  While the Tuaregs are Mahommedans, the cross-shaped pommel is retained, being doubtless a relic of their Christian ancestors." [citation omitted]

* Fryer 1969 p89
"Telek  The Tuareg arm dagger.  It has a cruciform hilt, often of brass.  The sheath has a loop which is placed over the wrist."


* Spring 1993 p29
"The oryx skin shield ayar of the Tuareg is typically some four feet high, slightly broader at the base than at the top, with rounded corners and an indentation both at the top, where it is more pronounced, and at the bottom.  The two upper projections thus formed are referred to as the 'shoulders' of the shield, the lower pair the 'buttocks'.  The front of the shield is always embellished with the same predominant multi-pointed motif which is created by numerous small incisions in the surface of the hide.  This motif varies somewhat in minor detail, as does the smaller, cross-shaped motif which normally appears directly above it.  On some shields small sections of green leather or hour glass-shaped pieces of red cloth are secured to the surface by means of circular brass or copper discs similar to those which cap the pommel of the Tuareg sword takouba.  A narrow handgirp is attached to the inside of the shield together with a small loop of hide in the middle of the top side by means of which the shield is hung either from the camel saddle when on the move or on an interior wall of the Tuareg tent.  The production of the ayar declined with the widespread use of firearms, though it continued to be carried in status-linked or ceremonial contexts."

* Pitt Rivers Museum online > Tuareg shield (1913.31.40)
"Tuareg shields are too large to wield deftly on the arm in combat and were held relatively rigidly by a strap two-thirds of the way up the shield. Camel saddles were carved with a special hook to suspend the shield when not in use. The incised, snowflake-like decoration on the front also appears in rock art found in the western Sahara but there is uncertainty about its meaning. Some think it is a heraldic or armorial device, indicating clan affiliations. Others argue it is an amulet intended to fend off Tehot - the Evil Eye. The most convincing explanation is that it represents Izez, 'The Vulture God Who Slaughters the Foe', who is a Tuareg war deity, closely linked to the Arabic and Persian vulture war-god Aziz. As such, it is likely to possess powers of divine invocation."

* Feest 1980 p18 f13  
"The [Ahaggar-Tuareg] shields, made of the skin of a gazelle, are very light and strong, although they can be split by a sharp sword."


* Blanguernon 1955 p114
"On recontre encore des Touareg portant la lance de fer: l'<<allar>>, qui était une arme de jet à petite distance.  Elle mesure environ 1,90 m.  Elle devient de plus en plus rare."

* Spring 1993 p


* Blanguernon 1955 p114
"Pour chasser le mouflon, on utilise une sorte de javelot dont la pointe et le talon ont la forme de ceux de lance; cette arme se nomme <<tarda>>."