Tent post (ehel)

Tuareg peoples
20th century
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General Description

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, Cote d'Ivoire, and Benin.

Tuareg tents are made of arched wooden frames covered with goatskins or straw mats. Poles were used in tents as supports for the roof of sewn goatskins, as supports for the woven straw mat walls surrounding the tent, or for separating interior private spaces. Leather bags or clothing were hung on shorter poles, which also functioned as cushion supports. Tall tent poles (ehel) like this pair secure reed wall mats around the bed for privacy or for protection from the elements. Each of these poles is intricately carved with geometric openwork patterns that create a symmetrical design. Tent poles were carved by men who belonged to ineden, an association of men of earthly knowledge, history, and technology.

Adapted from

  • Roslyn A. Walker, The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 226-227.

  • Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.