The Tamajaq — "the blue men of the desert" — are a nomadic people who migrated from northern Africa into the Sahel regions of the western Sahara Desert. Their ancestors may have originated in Canaan.
The Tamajaq live in Niger as well as other countries in the Sahel region of the western Sahara Desert.
The Tamajaq are a tall and regal people who are known historically as "the warriors of the blue veil," a name given because of the blue-dyed headdresses characteristically worn by the men. The Tamajaq vary from light-skinned to very black-skinned, and are distinguished in dress by their veils, called Tegulmust. They are also known for their display of finely crafted jewelry and ornaments, some of which bear the symbol of a cross, which is thought to have been handed down from a very early Christian influence.
In this matrilineal society, the family of the wife is important, and the women enjoy more freedom than do the women of neighboring tribes. The smallest social unit is the encampment, which includes siblings, parents, and other relatives. Tamajaq are not polygamous, but divorce is common. Class stratification is evident in five primary groupings: nobles, priests, freemen, craftsmen (blacksmiths), and servants. They're also separated by clans. In addition to bloodline authority, leadership is both achieved and ascribed.
The social organization is well adapted to the nomadic life of guardian and protector of herds. It's also a war organization, a solidarity in which each role is strictly determined and has a clear authority structure. The nobles used to hold authority, but today must submit to national and local governments, which creates tension as individuals holding government positions are usually from other people groups. The head of the confederation of tribes is the Amnokal, or drum chief, who is chosen according to certain hereditary laws.
SIM established a work among the Tamajaq in Zinder, Niger in 1924, and another work in Tahoua, Niger in 1951. The mission is involved in evangelism, discipling and translation. Many Tamajaq are now willing to discuss issues relating to Jesus and the salvation he provided through his death on the cross. Missionaries have gained respect after initially facing great animosity.
The Tamajaq constitute several different ethnolinguistic people groups, each requiring a separate missionary effort. Although eight missions and 30 missionaries currently work with the Tamajaq, regions and dialects remain where no significant gospel witness has been made.
Bible portions were translated into Shifinagh, the written language of the Tamajaq people, from 1979 to 1985. Today, work is in progress to complete the entire Scriptures for the Tamajaq of Niger.