By Sylviane A. Diouf, Curator of Digital Collections, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
“Niger? You mean Nigeria?” No Niger, the largest country in West Africa. “The country of the Nigerians?” No, the country of the Nigeriens.
I have visited Niger several times and always came back with wonderful memories… and exceptional crafts. It is one of the most fascinating places I know.
Sannu (hello) Niger!
With over 490,000 square miles, Niger covers more territory than Nigeria. But the latter’s 167 million inhabitants make it the seventh most populous country in the world while the former is home to just above 15 million people. Not surprising since the Sahara desert occupies more than two-thirds of Niger’s landmass. The landlocked country is surrounded by seven sometimes difficult neighbors: Algeria, Libya, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Nigeria, and Chad.
I love its arid environment and the desert has some extraordinary sandscapes, however it is the people I find remarkable. Nigerien pageantry is unparalleled. It is colorful yet restrained; mysterious and friendly.
I vividly remember the astonishing sight of thousands of men crossing a bridge over the River Niger, in total silence. Hausa on horseback, their boubous (kaftans) and turbans shining in the sun; Tuareg on camels, with only their eyes visible; and Bororo on foot, sporting long braids and delicately embroidered clothes. It had taken them days and for some, weeks, to reach the capital, Niamey, for a cultural festival.
To read more, click here.