This vintage Tuareg scabbard is known as an "elmusi". Entirely handmade, this dagger likely made its way north through the Sahara Desert to the southern Moroccan town of Zagora, where it was obtained. The Tuareg attach daggers, which were once used for hunting, to belts worn at their waists. This leather and silver scabbard is decorated with geometric cutwork and stamped, pierced and engraved designs. This item dates from the early to mid-20th century.
The Tuareg are traditionally independent nomadic herders, crossing the southern Sahara desert by camel. Influential in the spread of Islam, they produce no masks or figures--prohibited in Islamic society--but instead create an impressive world of traditional, abstract, beautiful, functional objects of leather, wood and metal. Tuareg jewelry is often characterized by the use large stones and distinctive etched patterns in elaborate silver work.
Tuareg designs carry rich symbolism and meaning, often including elements of the night sky which guide them on their night time journeys through the desert. Each carefully etched line in Tuareg handicraft represents an important creature in tribal life, both human and animal.