Peter Fuchs is an ethnologist and Africanist from Austria. In the years 1978 – 1994 he was professor of Ethnology at the university at Göttingen. He specialized in the Sahara-area and did fieldwork for many years.
This present book is the result of one of his first periods of fieldwork. He travelled, accompanied with two others, to Algeria where he stayed in the Hoggar mountains to study one group of the Tuareg. They stay with the Kel-Relah, the nobility among the Tuareg. The king has agreed with their stay and slowly but surely they build up good relations with the people who stay in the camp. For a period of six months they are able to witness and participate in the daily life, the feasts, the struggle for life, the contacts with the outside world.
This groups belongs to the Berber, noting their language and their race. The blacksmiths in the community do form a distinct group, they are not Tuareg, nor are they Arabs, they are from Ethiopian descent.
At one of the feast, a romantic one, Ahal, the king is not present. People sing and tell stories. One of the singers elopes with the wife of the king. When the king finds out he forms a chase-party including Peter Fuchs and two noblemen. Peter is asked to negotiate, but the woman refuses to return to her husband. The king accepts defeat.
Moving camp is an important step, looking for new grazing grounds. This already takes place when the chase-group is still underway. On the way back the group looks for ancient burial sites. When the group comes back they celebrate in a ritual way the elopement. The king is not king for life, there is a political revolt against the king.
The Tuareg get different visitors. A group militarymen from the French colonial power comes around. Later on they meet people from the Foreign Legion, a Madame M. (full name not given) is a French lady who stayed on after a medical expedition, she is charmed by the Tuareg. There is a party when a marabout pyas the group a visit.
When the researchers and the Tuareg go their seperate ways after six months there is a feeling of sadness.
This is a nice book with insights from the inside. The Tuareg are still in the picture, not always in a positive way, look at the situation in Mali. A few years ago I met a Tuareg in the Drôme region of France, he was selling artifacts. We could exchange a few words of Hausa. He looked less impressive than his relatives I met in Africa.
Peter Fuchs – Im land der verschleierten Männer – Wien 1953 (with black and white pictures)