Teda - History and Cultural Relations

Teda traditional history consists mainly of accounts of the migration of various clan groups into and around the Tibesti. They reveal a good deal about the nature of the Teda clan as a social unit, the formation process of the Teda as an ethnic group, and the character of power and status in Teda society. The recorded history of the Teda territory begins with a seventh-century Arab chronicle, but it is not until around 1300 that solid evidence of the Teda presence is found.

A critical feature of the Tibesti is its remoteness. For the Teda this remoteness is a refuge; others passing through the region are charged a fee. Because of the strategic location of the Tibesti relative to the major caravan routes, the Turks, Arabs, Italians, and French vied to control it, but political control did not always result in significant cultural influence. The most significant effect of contact with other cultures was a stricter adherence to Islamic doctrine. Thus, while the Teda clans immigrated to Tibesti from areas that were already Muslim, their practice of the faith had been extremely unorthodox. Between 1850 and 1930, the Senusi brotherhood a rather puritanical Islamic sect emphasizing scriptural education, established its mission among the Teda and made some headway in eliminating nonstandard and pre-Islamic features.

The Teda are considered solitary, rather tough mountain and desert people. They were on quite hostile terms with their Arab and Tuareg neighbors throughout the colonial period. Their style of social interaction tends to be oriented more toward independence than cooperation. Their character has been described as Spartan, softened by an Islamic emphasis on giving over receiving.

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