The Inconsistencies of Parenthood

THE INCONSISTENCIES OF PARENTHOOD: This photo depicts Salah and his youngest daughter.  Salah is one of my best friends from the Azawak.  He is married to the outspoken Raichatou, the leader of women in our community of Tangarwashane.  Proud of his delicious cooking, he relishes making tagala (sand bread) when I visit.  Like most Touareg fathers I know, he adores his children, and spends much of his time cuddling with them.  He even opened part of his home to start the first school of Tangarwashane. … More The Inconsistencies of Parenthood

The Artist

THE ARTIST: Aghali , aged four, belongs to a reknown family of Inadan, the Touareg artisan cast. The man, the Inadan, makes tools, crafts intricate jewelry from metal, makes camel saddles, sharpens stone… the list goes on.  The women artisans, the Tchinadan, are leatherwork specialists.  They craft bags, pouches, and various decorations from beautifully dyed leather.  The artisan tradition is inherited from father to son, mother to daughter, and Inadans almost always exclusively marry amongst themselves. … More The Artist

Mother or Child

MOTHER OR CHILD: This Wodaabe child that I met at a Gerwul ceremony is already a mother.  She is so young, and yet participates in this festival where she may find another man to elope with if she is displeased with her first husband.  She seems so young to me, with my western perspective.  And yet, ironically, it seems to me that Wodaabe girls marry a little later than their Touareg counterparts.  While they might be betrothed as early as 14, they may also marry as late as 16. … More Mother or Child


HOPE: Before I end my “Children of the Azawak” series to move on to my “Father’s Day” series, I want to thank everyone who has joined this journey of love for humanity, and in particular, these gorgeous children.  I hope that through their beauty, you have sensed their being, if only for a fraction of a second… that you have witnessed their dignity as much as their daily suffering. … More Hope

The Intricacies of Humanitarianism

THE INTRICACIES OF HUMANITARIANISM: I would like to return to my second to last post, where I discuss cultural differences among Niger’s various ethnic groups.  As a humanitarian ethnographer, and head of an NGO, understanding such differences is crucial for having maximum impact on people’s lives.  In a country like Niger, with over eight different ethnic groups, applying a “one size fits all” approach to development is doomed for disaster. … More The Intricacies of Humanitarianism

Flying Bags of Poop

FLYING BAGS OF POOP: I was exhausted from the day’s heat, and tired of conducting questionnaires.  Even though my research was fascinating, I wanted to play with kids, and take a break from the gruel of my work.  I had spent all day walking from one household to another in the village of Goumbi Kanno, conducting interviews with women to inquire about their hygiene and sanitation practices. I was feeling a little strange asking such personal questions to women I hardly knew.  A break was in order. … More Flying Bags of Poop

Can Your Culture Make you Healthier?

CAN YOUR CULTURE MAKE YOU HEALTHIER? This Fulani girl is from the village of Goumbi Kanno, near Niger’s border with Nigeria.  At the time that I met her, I was working for CARE International, conducting breastfeeding education among the mothers of Goumbi Kanno, a village composed of both the Hausa and Fulani ethnic groups.  I was living on the Hausa side of the village, and my first – very judgemental! — impression of Kanno was that it was filthy and neglected.  … More Can Your Culture Make you Healthier?

Is Suffering Relative?

IS SUFFERING RELATIVE?  Over the past couple of days, I have received very nice comments following a few of my posts expressing concern and sadness for the conditions that my friends in the Azawak endure.  I am grateful that your heart has been moved.  Mine certainly was moved 12 years ago when I first visited the Azawak, and still is today as @ammanimman works to make life saving changes in the region.  And yet I’ve come to understand the suffering of my friends there differently. … More Is Suffering Relative?