Introduction / History The Tuareg (Udalan) of Burkina Faso belong to a larger group of nomadic, Berber-speaking Tuareg who live in an area that stretches from the western Sahara to western Sudan. The Udalan are one of the seven major Tuareg confederations. Most of the Udalan Tuareg live in Mali, and an additional group live in Burkina Faso.
In 1972, the worst drought in 50 years struck the Sahara, bringing disaster and severe stress to the Tuareg. The nomads were forced to travel southward in search of pastures for their herds. This massive migration intensified as water supplies began to fail. Conflicts over rights and obligations among the people and governments of the regions were also generated. Many animals died of thirst, hunger, or fatigue during the long journey. Thousands of Tuareg drifted to the cities where they set up cowhide shelters and lean-to shanties on the fringes of town. Many Tuareg never returned to their original homeland.
What are their lives like? In the Southern Sahara, many Tuareg, particularly those from the Negro classes, are now settled farmers living in villages surrounded by grain fields. Since farming is seasonal work, many of the young men also take jobs as blue-collar workers in Nigeria, Ghana, or Ivory Coast for part of the year.
The most distinctive aspect of the Tuareg dress is the fact that the men wear veils. The Tuareg see it as shockingly indecent for a man's mouth to be seen by anyone to whom he owes formal respect. Therefore, he will always cover his face when in the presence of someone of higher social standing.
Tuareg marriages usually take place between couples within the same clan, or extended family unit. Marriages between cousins are preferred. A newlywed couple generally lives for about a year in the camp of the bride's parents. Then, they will move over to the husband's camp. The typical age for marriage is between 20 and 25 for women and almost 30 for men. Monogamy (one husband, one wife) is the rule, and divorce is very unusual and generally frowned upon.
Marriage always requires the payment of a bride price. The size of the gift varies according to the beauty and social standing of the bride, as well as the wealth of the groom. A young man needs quite a few camels to pay the bride price. He must also accumulate a large enough flock to feed his family and still have extra to sell to provide for his household needs. Tuareg women are treated with respect. However, they are not allowed to hold political offices or exercise any authority outside their own tents.
Tuareg culture embraces many forms of art. They have a large collection of music, poetry, and songs that are often used during festivals, courtship, and various rituals. Metal, wood, and dyed and embroidered leather crafts are manufactured. Women play single-chord violins called imzads, and men often play drums or wooden flutes. Parties are frequently held around campfires during the evenings, where both men and women sing.
What are their beliefs? Though the Tuareg are virtually all Sunni Muslim, they have a reputation among other Muslims for being lukewarm in their faith. They practice a passive form of Islam, infused with local superstitions and magic. Most do not even celebrate the most important Muslim fast of Ramadan. Protective charms or amulets are commonly worn. Many also believe in jinnis, which are-according to Muslim legend-spirits capable of assuming human or animal form and exercising supernatural influence over people. There are a number of marabouts (those of the "holy class") living among the Tuareg, some of whom run Islamic schools.
What are their needs? There are currently no known Tuareg Christians living in Burkina Faso. Evangelistic tools are needed to provide the Gospel. Prayer is the key to reaching these precious people with the Gospel.
Prayer Points * Pray that missions agencies and churches will accept the challenge of adopting and reaching the Tuareg.
* Pray that Gospel broadcasts will soon be produced in the Tamasheq Timbuktu language.
* Ask the Lord to send loving Christians from others parts of Africa to Burkina Faso to share the Gospel with the Tuareg.
* Pray that God will grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Tuareg.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Tuareg who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Tuareg.