Assrou n Swoul

Tuareg Assrou n Swoul Key

Genuine & Rare Tuareg Key

Antique Tuareg Assrou n Swoul. Private collection of Temehu.com. Dim. (28 cm x 8 cm).

The Facts

A genuine and old Tuareg robe weight known as assrou n swoul (assrou n' swoul), generally translated as " the key which is thrown over the shoulder ". The assrou n swoul is a highly prized and valued piece among the collectors of Berber antiques and jewellery. Items of this kind and quality are extremely rare. Tuareg blacksmiths, known as inadan in Tamazight ('Berber language'), are well known for their fine metal-work and are among the best in the Sahara. This elaborate key-like pendant is often worn by wealthier women as a counterweight to keep their head-cloths or robes from being blown away by the Sahara's winds.Tuareg women dress in black or indigo robes and go about their business unveiled, unlike their husbands who must keep their faces covered at all times, even while eating. The key (or the assrou) is hand-made, using brass, copper, iron, silver (or silver and nickel alloy) and wood; the method of laminating used is known as the ‘sandwich technique’. It is a very lengthy process, requiring time and special skills as those of Tuareg smiths. Compared with other similar pieces, this key is of the highest quality, well balanced, neatly executed, masterly engraved with fine Berber designs, and truly unique. The patina on the wood clearly indicates that this piece was well used and had a long history.

Assrou n Swoul   Assrou n Swoul


Condition: the piece is in very good original condition.
Dimensions: length: 28 cm; width: 8 cm; thickness: 1-3 mm, and 5-9 mm at protrusions;weight: 151 grams.
Materials: brass sandwiched to iron, with copper overlay, and maybe silver or silver-nickel alloy, and wood.
Period: unknown, but it could be late 19th or early 20th century.
Classification: metal-work.
Source: private collection. Owner: Temehu.com.



The above information is what is currently widely known about this rare object of Tuareg culture. This is a problem common to most art forms, ancient and modern, where the intended meaning of the work is often unclear or cannot be determined outright and hence is usually interpreted in various ways by different critics and art lovers. The Assrou n Swoul undoubtedly employs a set of geometrical expressions of Saharan culture, cleverly constructed to convey the basic fundamentals of Tuareg art, in a very simple and yet a powerful way. The elements used in this design are definitely the same as the geometrical forms generally found in Berber carpets, prehistoric art, tattoos, engravings and jewellery, and therefore to say that this master piece of art was specifically constructed and made only as a counterweight is an understatement which can only express gross negligence and clear ignorance. It would have been easier for the Tuareg smiths to mould a lump of iron and throw it over the shoulder, if that was the only reason. It is like the neighbouring Egyptian Ankh which many respected Egyptologists say is a sandal; maybe they meant to say a "scandal" .



Tuareg Necklace