Pastoralists in Niger

August 11, 2017

The Sedentarization of Dwelling

Florian Köhler's research project at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology was about transformation processes in a group of Fulɓe Woɗaaɓe in Niger, which he studied with a focus on the connection between space, place and identity. This group of once highly mobile pastoralists is characterized by increasing sedentarization as agro-pastoralists and by massive work migration to regional urban centres. Among the aspects investigated were continuity and change in the form of dwellings between the pastoral nomadic and the urban migrant context.

The significance of a shelter – The rains fall unsteadily in the northern Sahel but
when they do come, it is with force. Often, major rain showers are preceded by huge sandstorms.

The small, tent-like shelters of the Woɗaaɓe seem vulnerable in the face of a sand
storm, but they are well adapted to the mobile lifestyle of pastoralists. Today, covers of plastic tarp
protect the shelters fairly well against the rain water.

The seemingly little structured camp has in fact clear markers that define separate spaces. The calf rope separates the male from the female sphere.

At the same time the calf rope marks a space in which the domestic activities of the two sexes converge. Diffa region

Among the Woɗaaɓe in eastern Niger, only colourful mosquito nets provide
a minimum of privacy and protection. Diffa region

Collective camp site on the occasion of a lineage meeting (worso) in the process of its unmaking.
Damergou region.

Young women disassembling a shelter before a camp relocation. Koutous region

The household goods are loaded onto donkeys.

The work of packing up camp is a female task, although young men will occasionally be seen as they help loading a donkey. Damergou region

The tent poles are carried along if they are in good shape. Otherwise they can be replaced from local material. Damergou region

The household group on the move. Damergou region

The household group on the move. Damergou region

Girl and small child on donkey back. Damergou region

An occasional modern chair belonging to a family head may be part of the household goods. Damergou region

The household group on the move. Damergou region

Small children are carried on donkey back.

Twin brothers riding on top of a donkey load. Damergou region

Child riding on top of a donkey load. Damergou region

Arrived at the new camp site.

The unpacking of the household goods at the new camp site is again a female task. Damergou region

The reorganization of the camp in the new camp site.

The typical tent-like shelter (tukuru) is constructed around the bed. Koutous region

In preparation, a circle of holes is dug into the ground to fix the tent poles. Koutous region

Homestead with symbolic enclosure of branches, bedstead and calabash
shelf. Koutous region

A woman is reassembling her mobile house. Koutous region

The branches that serve as tent poles are tied together with strings made of old rugs. Koutous region

Woman reassembling her mobile house after a camp relocation.

The matting must be tightly fixed with strings to resist the often strong winds.

Woman reassembling her mobile house after a camp relocation.

The tukuru shelter is covered with matting. Koutous region

During the hot dry season, only a light cover of cloth is preferred, which allows for the
circulation of air. Koutous region

Young girls in a half-constructed shelter. Koutous region

The urban camps that Woɗaaɓe migrants install in open places within the city show a structural
resemblance with the pastoral camps. The shelter opens to the west and the calabash shelf is aligned to the north. Diffa

Woɗaaɓe shelters in the urban space. If the spatial conditions permit, the composite camps in the urban space reproduce the typical linear arrangement of the pastoral camps. Diffa

The thorny branches that delimit the domestic unit are more relevant in town than in the
pastoral camps as a protection of the private space against passers-by. Diffa

Woɗaaɓe girl at her urban home. Diffa

Woɗaaɓe children at their urban home. Diffa

Woɗaaɓe woman at her urban home. Diffa

Woɗaaɓe camps in an open space in Diffa town.

Woɗaaɓe woman at her urban home. Diffa

A typical transportable bed in an urban Woɗaaɓe homestead. Diffa
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