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Mohamed El Maouloud Ag Hamid | Association Timidwa

Silver, leather, and centuries of culture

Northern Mali artist collective Timidwa was founded with the mission of bringing people together united in common creative goals. Comprising 150 male and female artisans from different ethnicities and professions, Timidwa’s members not only support each other creatively – sharing skills and design techniques – but also socially.

Timidwa’s artisans are ethnically Tuareg, a traditionally nomadic people, who for generations have herded goats and other animals. Even today, with most of the population living in settled areas, families have animals. Thus, the ability to construct both useful leather items such as shoes and saddles, as well as decorative objects goes back for generations, passed on patrilineally. For many of the elaborately designed, energetically colored leather goods offered by Timidwa, artisans use locally sourced goat leather. Tanned hides are colored with organic vegetable dyes and other pigments before getting meticulously designed and embellished with tassels or special closures. Ornately carved boxes, suitable for any number of beloved trinkets and treasures, are made with wood from Mali, or else from neighboring Senegal. From start to finish, everything produced by Timidwa’s artisans is handmade. This principle even extends to leatherworking tools. In many cases, artisans use engraving tools of their own construction and design.

Timidwa’s silver jewelry, often set with bold, large segments of polished semi-precious stones, are in a class of their own. To learn this highly skilled, revered artistic technique, apprentices start with the art of handling fire, using traditional, handheld bellows—the essential tool of the region’s master jewelers. Certain materials, like ebony and turquoise, must be purchased from outside Mali, but silver is created by the artisan individually. Remarkably diverse, Timidwa’s members are nevertheless united in making some of the finest, and most breathtakingly unique, artwork imaginable.