Tunisia: Tunisian Berber woman

Front view
Front view

General description: Tunisian Berber woman in festive clothes

Dimensions: 24 x 11 x 7 cm

Date when acquired: 1992

Original Date: 1992

Source: Hammamet, Tunisia. Present from Marcel S.

Back view
Back view



Plastic with movable arms, rigid legs and immovable eyes. The lines where the two halves of the body, legs and arms are fused have not been smoothed down and her fingers are badly cut out. Her fingers have been painted very badly in red. Black dots and lines have been painted on her face and hands most probably indicating tattoos.  Again, the art work is of very poor quality. Straggly thin long black hair hangs down her back to below her waist.


View from the right side
View from the right side


She has a piece of blue silky cloth wrapped around her body in the Berber dress style and held in place with a gold belt. The bottom of the material has one wide and three narrow light blue stripes. The top of the dress is held in place by a collier consisting of two large gold triangles covering the top of her arms and shoulders. Between these is gold mesh covering her chest. Three gold circles decorate the front of the dress bodice, held in place by red or green sequins. A similar gold circle is in the middle of the gold mesh, held in place by a green sequin. The dress has long sleeves made of a white tulle just rolled around the arms and held in form by a single sequin. Her feet are bare.

Her head and hair are covered by long silky scarf in dark blue with a design of white, yellow and orange circular and oval shapes. The headscarf is held in place by a broad band wrapped around forehead like a crown or fillet. It is decorated with silver sequins and with a silver leaf at the front held in place by a red sequin.


View of the top of the head showing how the head band is fixed over the scarf
View of the top of the head showing how the head band is fixed over the scarf


Jewellery (see above)


Background information

The style of dress and tattoos of this doll indicate that she is Berber rather than Arab as the Arabs in Tunisia wear other styles of clothing and do not have facial tattoos.

This doll is typical of the poorly made national costume dolls that seemed to flood the market in the 1980s and 1990s. They were made for the tourist trade at a time when the interest in such dolls seemed to be waning and people were not willing to spend much money on them. This demise of well-made dolls saddened and saddens me. Even though this doll is so poorly made, I have kept her as she was a present (though she stands hidden at the back of my doll cupboard). When I went to Tunisia myself the year afterwards, in 1993, I looked for costume dolls and even though I was on Djerba and travelled through the centre of Tunisia, only poorly made ones were available.


Source(s) of information

See Tunisia – general information and Tattooing in Berber women




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