Civilization in an uncivilized world: The Tuaregs are light years ahead

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Across the Sahara, there is a tribe whose population spills past national borders. Its people, curly haired nomads, find fulfillment in honest trade and agriculture. Here, the government does have a controlling participation and societal dispositions do not force people to conform to its preferences. The lifestyle is, instead, dictated by a strong cultural influence, one which, surprisingly, seems extremely advanced and civilized in nature, likely ahead of that of the Western world. They are, the Tuaregs.

The Tuaregs are categorized as semi nomadic which basically means that, although they practice seasonal migration while living in temporary homes, they usually have a base camp that they can ultimately return to. What’s most fascinating about the Tuaregs isn’t their mode of habitation, it’s the dynamic interrelationship that exists between genders. Though an African Islamic sect, the Tuaregs are highly liberal, giving for a flexible coexistence between their traditional culture and the religion.

Women are well respected members of the community and are treated as such. They are allowed to express sexual freedom as much as men and there is usually no societal stigmatization associated with this. This respect and equality extends well into marriages. The woman is never treated as a “prize” who becomes subject to the man’s will after marriage, as is the case in some cultures. She owns her own property, which includes the houses and the animals, she participates in family and tribal decisions, in fact, “Any visitor who goes to a Tuareg camp would be vastly underestimating the power of the women in the tent if they believe their sole duty is to make the food and look after children.” Here, the men rather than women are the ones whose faces are covered simply because they believe their women are too beautiful to have their faces hidden.

Divorce is very rampant among the Tuaregs and when it happens it’s usually instigated by the woman. She starts the divorce process and once it’s over, gets to keep the property. It is not unusual for the woman’s family to thereafter throw her a divorce party, an indication to the public that she is once again, available.

It is important to note that the Tuaregs are not a matriarchal society, their way of life does not call for any form of “masculinism” as the men are neither oppressed nor emasculated, but are, instead, actively involved in familial and societal decision making. The immense respect given to the women is a result if their identification as a matrilineal tribe. They trace their heritage back to Tin Han, a queen who is believed to have traveled from Morocco to what is now Algeria. The noble families of the Tuareg are believed to be descendants of queen Tin Han, and the peasants, offspring of her hand maiden.

The Tuaregs may be a small tribe located in the Saharan parts of Africa, however, it is undeniable that their cultural lifestyle is significantly advanced having freedom and gender-equality as its highlights. Civilization in an uncivilized world, the Tuaregs may as well be light years ahead.

Lilian Ogbuefi is a Creative Writer/Blogger interning at 301 digital media and currently completing her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and English at Fisk University, Nashville Tennessee. She identifies as a story teller and believes that story telling is the ultimate way to preserve thoughts and ideas while influencing the actions and decisions of the individual that interprets the story behind the art, thus, promoting change in the society. As a writer and filmmaker, she strives to embrace this modern form of expression by infusing it with as much positive messages as possible. At the end of the day, what’s truly important to her are, the messages we pass, the stories we tell and the changes we influence. “Stories change lives; make them count".

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