There are many places of interest to explore in Mali, Africa. Contrary to popular belief, the ancient city of Timbuktu was once a hotbed of bustling commerce. Presently, camel caravans arrive in the city each year to distribute merchandise obtained from salt mines. The city of Djenné holds beautiful centuries-old mosques. Mali is also the region where the nomadic group known as Tuareg travel.
The nomadic families traveling along the Sahara Desert engaging in trade were coined Tuareg by French explorers. A fixture in many parts of Africa for over 2,000 years, the Tuareg were known for many things including a peaceful disposition to well-meaning passersby yet fiercely aggressive towards invaders.
The Tuareg are also highly revered for their immense silversmith skills passed down from generation to generation. Presently, Tuareg groups tend to settle in one area near wells to establish a homestead.
Traditionally the men of Tuareg families are silversmiths while the women excel at leatherwork. The women refused to wear gold jewelry, therefore silver trinkets were created instead; some sterling silver, some fine silver (99%). The designs Tuareg silversmiths create tell their personal history and lifestyle with symbolism.
Every aspect of a pendant's structure, for instance, reflects aspects of their culture. The pendant itself signifies a sultan's palace, while the placement of pearls represent outer territories' position in relation to the palace.
The Agade Cross was a familial neckpiece that Tuareg fathers passed down to their sons at puberty. The upright and transverse beams signifying the different paths or directions the young man's life could take.
The photographs within this post feature beautiful silver jewelry created by Tuareg families in Mali, who sell their items through The Hunger Site.
Ann Elston, a California-based attorney, established a website TuaregJewelry.com, which features the incredible work of silversmiths from another Tuareg group in Niger, the Koumama family.
For 8 years, Elston has worked with the remarkably gifted group of artisans to promote their jewelry, which provides them with sustainable income.
Photo 1 (top right): Ebony and Silver Coin Cuff Bracelet
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Celebration Earrings