Wheels of Cloth

‘Wheels of cloth’ are long, narrow strips of handwoven cloth used to make Tuareg men and women’s clothing in Saharan Africa.

Many of these garments were later locally embroidered, especially around the neck region.

This type of cloth was also widely used as a form of commerce and was transported in the form of large ‘wheels’ of wound cloth. The width of the cloth varied from one to five centimetres, probably depending on the intended function of the strips, such as men or women’s clothing.

According to various authors, these strips were not locally made by the Tuareg. Instead it is likely that the woven strips came from either further south, in African Nigeria, notably from Kura and Tofa or from Sudan.

This type of cloth had various names, depending on where it originally came from, such as dandi, gabaga (Hausa) and shigga (Sudan; also used elsewhere). The latter term derives from the Arabic shiqqa, meaning a garment size piece of cloth.

See also the TRC Needles entry on Tuareg embroidery.


  • BRIGGS, Lloyd Cabot (1960). Tribes of the Sahara, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 156.
  • LOVEJOY, Paul E. (1986). Salt of the Desert Sun: A History of Salt Production and Trade in the Central Sudan, Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, p. 205.
  • RODD, Francis Rennell (1926). People of the Veil, London: Macmillan, p. 156.


Last modified on Monday, 24 April 2017 12:00