Agadez, Niger


Photographer: Matilde Gattoni

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

Ajo, 92, plays her imzad at a gathering of Tuareg women and girls. The bowlshaped body of Ajo’s instrument is made from a calabash with an animal skin drawn taut across its top to create a sound box. Its single string, and that of its bow, are made from horse hair. In the Tuareg’s matrilineal culture, only women play the imzad, which can be played as a solo instrument and to accompany singing. Performances usually take place at evening parties. The nomadic Tuareg have for centuries lived across the Saharan areas of what are now Mali, Niger, Algeria and Libya. Women have traditionally been the main conduit passing culture from one generation to the next. Since the start of the 20th century, the number of imzad players has been in gradual but continual decline. Ajo is one of only three women who plays the imzad in her community.