Tuareg lady and cross (from here)
Enfeebled by ethnic and social division, weakened by the emigration of their elite and deprived of monastic life, not persecuted as such but nevertheless reduced by Islam to second-class citizens, isolated from the outside world, the Orthodox of the Maghreb were over seven centuries assimilated into the Muslim universe. In about 1400, after 700 years of faithfulness, the lamp of Orthodoxy in North-West Africa went out through lack of oil. It left vestiges only in folklore and language. For example, to this day the Touareg word for 'sacrifice' is 'tafaske', derived from the Latin word for Easter 'Pascha'.
From their tragic history, we can learn various lessons for today:
Firstly, we can learn of the need for Christians of different nationalities to work together in justice, without treating each other as second-class citizens. Whether they are Roman or Berber, Greek or African, Ukrainian or Romanian, Russian or English, they must treat one another as Orthodox Christians, avoiding divisions, putting their Faith, and not their ethnicity, first. (...)
From the article The Last Christians of North-West Africa.
Tuareg Cross Symbology
Katie O Jewelry
|Tuareg cross (from here)|
"...The pastor [our note: a Tuareg who has converted to Protestantism] then showed us the Tuareg cross, which is similar to the Orthodox cross but different in design. He explained that the cross became a tribal symbol centuries before when the Tuareg people were basically Christian. That symbol is widely used today in Tuareg art and architecture. The cross comes from the people’s Roman Catholic heritage [our note: no, but the heritage of the ancient Church = the Orthodox Church], and their language has Phoenician roots. Very interesting...." (from Tuareg - Personal Visit).
Tuareg tribal art focuses on jewellery, leatherwork, metal saddle ornaments, and richly crafted swords. It is a repository of Tuareg heritage and culture, passed down through the female line, and results in exquisite silver jewellery and leather artefacts. Down the generations, Tuareg artisans have preserved the symbolism and cosmology of their environment and have incorporated it into their jewellery. The geometric patterns and designs are integrated into the pieces in a way that results in jewellery that speaks universally from the particular, and has a uniquely aesthetic appeal.
The Tuareg Cross is one such piece. The term 'cross' has been applied by Europeans in an attempt to describe this piece of jewellery, and has no equivalent in the Tamasheq language. Tribal Tuaregs refer to it as Teneghelt from the verb 'enghel' which means to pour, and refers to the 'lost wax' method by which the piece is created. The circle and the cross within the piece combine male and female symbols in union, to create a concrete object of great beauty, and is made of silver, regarded as a noble metal. This heritage is based on an ancient love myth, but it is also given by father to son, at puberty, as a symbolic reminder of the Tuareg nomadic life style, and to help him find his way at times of confusion, distress or difficulty, throughout the four directions of the world (from Tuareg heritage & culture).
Tuareg cross, from here
Alternative names include African, Agadez, Amazigh and Berber Cross
The term Muslim Cross begs qualification. It is a cross used by some Muslims but does not represent Islam nor the Crucifixion of Jesus. It is one of several different geometric cross patterns used by the Sunni Muslim. Tuareg people of Saharan Africa.
The centre of the cross represents God and since Muslims believe we are one with God, mankind shares that central spot. The four arms of the cross are to keep evil at bay and this cross is worn as a protective amulet. Muslims also believe, of course, that a few grams of shaped metal cannot protect anyone from evil (see Charms); only the love of God can do that. Nevertheless, like prayer beads used in many other religions, this cross is a symbol of one's faith.
The Tuareg are Berber nomads and most now live in Western Africa, principally Niger, Mali, Algeria, Burkino Faso and Libya. Given their nomadic traditions, the four arms can also be seen as conduits for spreading love to the four corners of the world, similar to the Christian's Mission Cross.
Generally shunning anything that could become idolatrous, Islam doesn't have many symbols (the Crescent being an obvious exception) consequently Muslims have copied artwork from Christianity giving it their own meaning, just as Christians copied Pagan artwork.
Whilst the Tuareg Cross is not supposed to represent Christianity (nor Islam) it is probably based on the Christian cross. Before the arrival of Islam, Berbers were Christian and very familiar with Christian art. As with the Coptic Cross, the circle at the top of this cross is most likely inherited from the Ankh, where it originally depicted the Sun god.
May the Saints of North-West Africa protect Tuareg people and all the peoples!
Please, see also
The Ancient Christianity (Orthodox Church) in Tunisia
The Last Christians of North-West Africa
Ancient Christian faith (Orthodox Church) in Africa
"THE WAY" - An Introduction to the Orthodox Faith
Theosis (deification): The True Purpose of Human Life
The Orthodox Church of Alexandria & the Patriarchate of Alexandria
Orthodox Mission in Tropical Africa (& the Decolonization of Africa)