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Simon Attwood

Lore of the Smith

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It is really quite puzzling that somethings that are so beautiful can be used for such destruction.

 

A weapon of beauty would seem to encourage one to contemplate the destruction at hand...

 

No one thinks twice with a bomber at 30,000 feet.

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but of course that bomber is "a marvel of modern technology"

its supposed to " reduce the the number of casualties and collateral damage with precision strikes"

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The maker of modern weaponry is impossible to pin down due to the assembly line; and aesthetics are a complete non-issue.

 

So we are the only ones making aesthetic decisions about weapons.  I think this makes some people uncomfortable.  "Why should such a dreadful thing be made into an object of beauty?"  I think it is important to contemplate weapons in the same way that a martial artist studies fighting so he doesn't have to fight.

 

I am much more uncomfortable with pure objects of destruction made without any contemplation of purpose.

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Does anyone know anything about the Tuaregs ( a tribe in Africa somewhere with a blacksmithing caste)

Jonathan - the Tuareg (also Toureg) have fascinated me for years. Theay are a nomadic people of the central and west-central Sahara and were once known as the Pirates of the Sahara and also the bluemen since the indigo dye used by the warrior class for their face covering turbans (the Tagelmoust or Litham - amongst the Tuareg the men and not the women veil their faces leaving only an opening for their eyes) and robes rubbed off and stained their skin blue. Their caste system basically consists of three groups: the nobles, the freemen, and the slave. The Inadan, mostly freed slaves, are the lesser caste (don't know how else to describe it) of artisans and in that group are the smiths known, as the iklan.

"http://perso.wanadoo.fr/tifinart/NigerAnglais.html"

Check out the above link for more info - scroll down about half way.

Here's a quote to wet your appetite -

"One notes again, in the emptiness of the desert, that the artisan knows how to recreate the means necessary to his art and that, not satisfied to work silver, he knows equally how to forge iron and fabricate swords, daggers, lances, knives, not to mention domestic objects."

 

The "unclean" aspect may come from the fact that originally the upper classes were of the white race (and still consider themselves to be white even though there has been much inbreeding with the darker skinned peoples). Another factor though is the feudalistic "caste" system of the area that kept the different craft groups separated (if you're born a smith you marry a smith and give birth to smiths, et al).

 

Here's a link with a picture of some (sheathed) Tuareg daggers-

http://www.coyotespaw.com/weapon/TuaregKnives2.htm

 

And another with info on the Tuareg sword "Takouba"

http://www.vikingsword.com/ethsword/takouba/

 

Hope this answers some of your questions.

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"I think it is important to contemplate weapons in the same way that a martial artist studies fighting so he doesn't have to fight."

 

Therein lies the answer. Now if everybody could learn and understand that...

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I would say that in it's most basic form they are tools (as in a working knife). from then on it is an Art, our Culture and our Heritage. What museum in the world doesn't contain bladed instruments of all shapes, sizes and purpose? if they aren't an art then why are they in museums? Should the knowledge and practice of this art be allowed to fall in to history out of ignorance and fear?

Agreed about martial arts. they are an art in their form and practice, the intent is no longer the main public focus and this is no different to the knife makers of today. The appraisal is in the form and practice of the knifemaker's art, or the functionality of the knife as a tool, and more often than not, both.

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It is, of course, at the root of this society that one finds the smiths, the “iklan”... Amongst the most remarkable type of jewellery, one must cite the famous Agades Cross and its numerous derivatives. Many authors claim that nothing is known of the origins of these beautiful objects. In reality, it appears to be linked to secret beliefs by which the world is explained...  One notes again, in the emptiness of the desert, that the artisan knows how to recreate the means necessary to his art and that, not satisfied to work silver, he knows equally how to forge iron and fabricate swords, daggers, lances, knives, not to mention domestic objects.

 

 

I heard that the Tuareg smiths have their own language.  I'll look for a source, but if it's true I bet it has as many words for steel as an Eskimo has for snow.

 

It is good to be a smith.  Usually.   ???

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I heard that the Tuareg smiths have their own language.

Among the Tuareg of the Sahara and Sahel, smiths, inaden, frequently speak their own language known as tenet, certainly when in the company of people other than smiths to whom they do not wish to disclose trade secrets (Rasmussen 1992).

see here for more on this subject and also about smithing/smiths in Africa in general:

http://projects.prm.ox.ac.uk/kent/shieweap/weaobj2.html#anchor997823

 

The runic alphabet known as Tifinagh - which apparently is descended from the ancient Punic/Phoenician Alphabet - is also used by the smiths who continue to this day to mark their goods using this alphabet rather than the more modern Tuareg tifinar.

 

Came across this in some of my rekindled research:

"The smiths/jewelry-makers of the Tuareg are believed to be descended from the Jews via Morocco and are considered by the Tuareg to be a race apart -despised as inferior yet respected for their craftsmanship. They are paid with food and sometimes money, and while usually attached to a particular master or family, they are, unlike slaves, free to work for whomever they choose. The smiths also perform cattle branding and circumcision, and their wives make the leather objects used by the Tuareg."

 

Interesting to note how metal smiths and leather smiths are put in the same boat so to speak..

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The mythology which surrounds the smith and which separates him from the rest of the society provides the very elements which, in the eyes of his clients, invest with power the knives, swords and other metal objects which he forges.

 

 

Ahhh... now I know why I'm such a weirdo.   :P  Does the degree of separation I feel from society equal the degree to which my work holds power?  (I promise to use my Powers for Awesome.)  :cool:

 

Thanks for the links Chuck.  I definitely want to pursue more smithy cultural lore... I think we still live with it.

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