Tent poles, Mali or Niger, mid-20th century. Wood, 136.8 x 16.5 x 2.8 cm, ©The Field Museum, Image No. A115335d_004A, Cat. No. 279194.1-.2, Photographer John Weinstein

Over the course of the 20th century, environmental and societal changes led the Sahara’s nomadic populations to adopt more sedentary lifestyles. Men of the artisan class made wooden beds, spoons, and tent poles, adorning them with intricate symmetrical designs. The tent itself was considered a woman’s property and was given to a new bride by her mother, who collected goatskins throughout her daughter’s childhood that she pieced together into a tent. Thus, a married woman owned her own tent, demonstrating the independence enjoyed by nomadic women.