The Tuareg are a seminomadic people of Amazigh origin (also known as Berbers) who dwell in tents (ehen) that can, along with their furnishings and possessions, be disassembled, packed, and carried to their next destination. Continuing desertification of the Sahel has caused the Tuareg to move southward from Algeria into Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger as well as the northern regions of Ghana, Togo, Côte d'Ivoire, and Benin.
Tuareg tents are made of arched wooden frames covered with goatskins or straw mats. Upright poles are used to build the tent, to support the tent wall mats, and to hang leather bags and clothing. Tall tent poles (ehel) like this pair secure reed wall mats around the bed for privacy or for protection from the elements.(12) Each pole is carved from a single piece of wood. Intricately carved geometric patterns create a symmetrical design that is surmounted by a semicircular panel topped with a finial, which may be a solid or an openwork geometric shape. Shorter poles were used as cushion supports.
The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art, cat. 79, pp. 226-227.
12. Seligman, Thomas K., and Kristyne Loughran, eds. Art of Being Tuareg: Sahara Nomads in a Modern World. Stanford, Calif.: Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University; Los Angeles: University of California, Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 2006. p. 93.
Thomas Seligman, personal communication, September 13, 2006.