Henrietta Butler’s “The Tuareg or Kel Tamasheq and a history of the Sahara” is finally being sold in the U.S. and trust us, you want it in your collection!

When one thinks of the Sahara Desert, images of sand dunes and barren tundra stretching far beyond human sight immediately spring to mind. In fact, the Sahara covers nearly 3.5 million square miles of the African continent encompassing ¼ of its land mass. Let’s not forget the unbearable heat with recorded temperatures above 115 degrees. Most think these conditions would prohibit the maintaining of human life and civilization; most would be wrong. In fact, human civilization exists and has existed there for centuries.

Woman pictureThe Tuareg, have both guarded and inhabited the Sahara for over a thousand years and not only do they live there, they still thrive as caravan traders in one of the most inhospitable environments known  to man. What distinguishes these “people of the veil”, is not the region where they live but rather their unique and intriguing culture that strikes a stark contrast to any known in the modern world and in her book, “The Tuareg: or Kel Tamasheq” Henrietta Butler captures the culture in all its glory in words and pictures.

There is so much in this volume that it would be a disservice to her to attempt to discuss it all within these pages but, there is one unique facet of this society that is ftting for this issue of Griots Republic: The women of the Tuareg. Butler highlights that Tuareg women operate, even
dominate, their culture in ways that modern society would blush to even consider. Imagine a society where women can have multiple sexual partners within and outside of wedlock? In fact, Tuareg women are afforded the same sexual freedoms as their male counterparts and it is not uncommon for a gentleman caller to enter the family tent at the side entrance and “indulge” in the near presence of the residents.

Now before you get the wrong impression, everything is done quite discreetly. In fact, the man “must” be gone before morning. Life for Tuareg women gets even better. They own everything and are guaranteed to walk away with everything in divorces due to prenuptial agreements (which are an acceptable norm in their society). Divorces are even celebrated with parties hosted by the women’s parents. But wait, there’s more. In deference to the Islamic norm, it is not the women who cover their faces, it is the men.

This is just a small portion of all that Butler shows us in her work. The Tuareg people have a legacy of beauty, strength and perseverance that has clearly fascinated Butler and it is her fascination with this culture that has enabled her to put together a photographic journey that is both educational and visually stunning. It is important to note that with the spread of radical Islamic groups in this area, the life of the Taureg is changing drastically and many of the tribe’s customs are dying. Having captured the essence of the the tribe’s culture prior to the indoctrination of incoming groups makes this a fantastic work of history and art to be cherished.

Griots Republic gives this book 5 passport stamps out of 5.


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