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Tuareg Metal Veil Weight or Key Assrou n'swoul Mali Africa

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Title Tuareg Metal Veil Weight or Key Assrou n'swoul Mali Africa
Materials Copper alloy, brass. (Unknown metal content).
Made In Mali
Traded In Mali
Approximate Age 20th century
Dimensions 10 inches H. x 1.75 inches W.
Overall Condition Good.
Damage/Repair Slight tarnishing
Type of Object Key, pendant, or veil weight


Additional information: This metal piece comes from the Tuareg. Such objects are created by blacksmiths (Inadan). The piece was probably used as a key by Tuareg women of high rank. It was also used as a symbol of status and wealth. Andrea Nicolls (in Selected Works From The Collection of The National Museum of African Art Smithsonian Vol 1, 1999: p. 25) from whom we got this information indicates that this key served to open a storage box in which the noblewoman kept her valuable items including her dowry. She also attached it to a corner of the veil she wore over her head as a weight to keep the veil in place. 


The nomadic Tuareg people of the Sahel and surrounding areas have a long history of silversmithing. Tuareg artists are now taking traditional silver jewelry designs and adapting them to create elegant new pieces.


The Tuareg  are tall, and a Tuareg woman can pack an entire household on a camel in two hours. Their skin is blue-black, from the indigo rubbed into cloths wrapped around their faces to keep out the desert sun and sand.


See a similar example in Selected Works From The Collection of The National Museum of African Art Smithsonian Vol 1, fig 8. (right),  p. 25, 1999


Further Reading: Thomas K. Seligman, ART OF BEING TUAREG. Sahara Nomads in A Modern World, Exhibition, Cantor Arts Center and UCLA Fowler, 2006- see Exhibition preview in African Arts, Volume XXXIX, N0 3, Autumn 2006, pp.56-79.