Vintage Saharan Tuareg Leather and Reed Rug

Circa 1940
Sahara Desert, Mauritania, Morocco
Leather — Reed
295 cm x 212 cm
9'8" x 6'11"

The carpets of the Tuareg, who are cattle herding nomads inhabiting a vast expanse of the Sahara desert, are among the most exciting group of weavings to appear on the market. These are woven by binding together fine straw reeds obtained from the panicum turgidum plant with strips of camel leather, the latter being often embellished with light green and yellow pigments in order to enrich the detailing of the pattern. Referred to as eseber by the Tuareg nomads, these large mats are used as tent screens and dividers. In ‘African Nomadic Architecture’ (1995), Labelle Prussin describes these mats as essential ‘to define an interior volume in which the wealth of colour, texture, memory, and meaning that permeates and impregnates the interior of the enclosed space could constitute a closed system of imagery.’ The designs are often based on their iconography, with star and cross-like devices alternating with geometric totemic-like figures of an abstract nature – typical of other forms of African art. Here the field is fully embroidered in leather with a geometric pattern divided in vertical compartments.

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