Artist Profiles

Artist:

Moussa Albaka

Region:

Africa

Country:

Niger

Media/General:

Jewelry

Medium of Work:

Silver and ebony Tuareg jewelry

Year(s) Attended:

Santa Fe: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018

About:

The Tuareg, a semi-nomadic people of North Africa, are world-renowned for their gorgeous sterling silver jewelry. Their culture continues to fascinate due to their elegant dress, exquisite ornamentation, refined speech, song, and dance. Master jeweler Moussa Albaka of Niger creates elegant silver jewelry, embellished with ebony, carnelian, and other natural elements. Resulting adornments are elegant and strikingly unique.

Traditionally, jewelers like Albaka serve extensive apprenticeships under the watchful eye of older and more experienced family members. In this setting, he learned the art of Tuareg jewelry, known for its geometric designs and intricate triangular and diamond motifs, and for its symbolism. One such example is the hand of Fatima, an ancient Middle Eastern design that represents the Hand of God, and is an interfaith sign of protection.

Tuareg jewelers have a reputation for holding special powers because of the way they handle fire. They easily reach into the flames where they retrieve mounds of clay, which are eventually broken, revealing a piece of silver. This metal piece is finished with a file and finely etched. This process is known as the “lost wax method.” Albaka might craft a collar-style, choker-length necklace from etched silver, or else create a delicately thin, finely pointed pendant for a beaded necklace. Other items include meticulously etched, cuff-like bracelets and elegant hoop earrings.