Upper part of a camel skin container (possibly udder skin) in two halves, which has been converted into a table lamp. A small square portion of the skin has been removed from the rim for insertion of a cable for the lamp, and there is a burn mark on the inside. The outside of the container has been decorated all over with geometric designs in brown pigment.
Conical skin containers such as this one were usually made from either cow or camel skin (but not udder skin). The two main centres of production are Agadez in Niger and Timbuktu in Mali. The containers are called 'batta' or 'bata' (plural 'batochi') in Hausa, and 'elbettan' or 'albattan' and 'tahattint' in Tamacheq. Tuareg women use them as containers for small personal items, such as make-up, perfume, incense, jewellery, medicine, or sewing kits. They are also made for the tourist market. Production: pieces of rawhide are soaked in water for several days until they are gelatinous. The pieces are then formed over clay moulds and left to dry. Long strips of wax are applied to the dry skin in geometric patterns and the boxes are subsequently dyed in a brown-red liquid derived from millet stalks. The areas covered by the wax remain undyed. Once completely dry, the wax strips are removed and the clay mould is broken and discarded.