Hawad’s Furigraphy: Re-signifying the Desert



In continuation of the photograph of Hawad that gives its strength to this issue’s cover, Maïa Tellit Hawad shares with us her perspective on her father’s work, in particular its relationship to language. Hawad creates graphic work like the ones that accompany this text, but he is also creating new concepts in Tamajaght language, which allows for poetry, painting, calligraphy, and political manifestos to exist together in an artistic continuum.

Hawad Funambulist 2
Hawad, Ink (series II-A), 50×65 cm, 1992.

Thrown via a brisk gesture, the letters reel and collide, morphing into lively silhouettes: ⵣ (Eza), ⵜ (Eta), ⴶ (Ega), etc. On canvas, they personify the signs of the Tifinah alphabet and the Amazigh cosmovision. In trance, their limbs have multiplied, stretched, intensified. Mutating beyond the word, straddling other signs or sometimes other texts, they pass through graphic turbulence, leading their gathering to the point of hiccups, bold splatters of color.

These inky, painted creatures are drawn with a reed/qalam (aghanib in Tuareg), or sometimes with a brush for larger formats. They form the pictorial side of what Hawad, the Amajagh (Tuareg) painter and poet, calls “Zardazghanab,” or “furigraphy”: a literary and graphic practice that uses words, letters, signs, and lines as ammunition to confront disaster and dispossession.

“When I was born, the chaos had already begun.” With this succinct phrase, Hawad, originally from the Aïr region and linked by family ties to the Ajjer (now Niger, Algeria, and Libya), evokes the steamroller that crushed his world. Born in the 1950s in the heart of Central Sahara, Hawad grew up in a society still reeling from colonial conquest and the defeat at the turn of the 20th century. The annihilating power of colonial domination’s technology (firearms, war machines, and new modes of transportation) scarred minds. Thirty years of anti-colonial resistance fought with asymmetrical weapons brought the country to its knees. Thousands of civilians were thrown into mourning and driven into exile. The social and political organization of the Tuareg, confederal in structure, is divided and de-structured, closely monitored and isolated from its neighboring partners.

Hawad Funambulist 1
Hawad, Ink (series II-A), 50×65 cm, 1992.