Moussa Albaka is a Tuareg tribesman from Niger. While Moussa has now settled in Tucson, Arizona, his family was involved in trading via camel caravan throughout the Sahara for generations. He and the men in his family are highly-skilled producers of silver jewelry, while the women in his family, including his sister, Haoua, excel at colorful Tuareg leatherwork. His company, Albaka Creations offers necklaces, amulets, bracelets, earrings, and more, all handmade with traditional methods and tools.
“I learned from my dad and uncle, and at the age of 15 I started selling my own work, as well as teaching my brothers this art,” says Moussa, who notes that, given his family history, “it was natural, and a way to express my own creative gifts while keeping my traditional craft alive.” In his jewelry, Moussa uses silver, a sacred material to the Tuareg people, combined with inlays of ebony wood, semi-precious stones, beads, and glass to create pieces that combine traditional Tuareg imagery with contemporary styling. His silver-working methods are many, including repousse, lost wax casting, and engraving—a technique he uses to imbue his jewelry with symbols inspired by nature and the Sahara Desert, including animal tracks, mountains, and sand dunes.
Moussa’s sons and nephews are also silversmiths. “We make a fair living wage doing what we love,” he says, though he admits it can be hard work. “We are strong and creative in our culture, and will not let [this artistic tradition] be lost to time.” Through jewelry making, he has been able to put his children through school, keep food on their family tables, and travel the world. “It’s not only a source of income but a way of life. For my people art, culture, and beauty is in everything we do.”