The Ouled Naïl - Elena Bondar
The Ouled Naïl

Young woman of the Ouled Naïl tribe, with tattoo and traditional jewellery (1905).

The Ouled Naïl (pronounced “will-ed nah-eel”) were a Berber tribe who inhabited the Atlas Mountains of Algeria. Though they converted to Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries, they retained a number of distinctive characteristics which set them apart until well into the 20th century. Chief among these was the status of their women, or Naïliyat.

The typical Naïliya wore a layered dress, heavy, spiked silver bracelets which could be used as weapons, and copious jewelry made of coins she had earned. She accented her eyes with kohl and decorated her hands and feet with designs in henna. The Naïliyat danced erotically, smoked tobacco and marijuana and openly prostituted themselves. The exuberance of their ornaments and the exoticism of their costumes added to their general fascination.


Pixels: 1576 x 2362 pixels (10.7 MP)
Image Size: 15 x 23 inches (100 dpi)
Format: PDF (2.3 MB)
Price: €15

Behind the Canvas

Most of these women trained in the art of dance and song from childhood. For Ouled Naïl females the practice of leaving their ancestral home and settling in a nearby desert town as entertainers was common. In adolescence they went down into the towns and worked as dancers and prostitutes in order to amass a personal fortune with which to purchase property at home.

The Ouled Naïl tribe originated a style of music, sometimes known as Bou Saâda music after the town near their homeland. In belly dancing, the term refers to a style of dance originated by the Ouled Naïl.

Interested in this? Please see also The Great Rann of Kutch.

About This Painting

Downloadable medium-format PDF image scanned from Elena’s original oil painting. This is a medium-sized PDF, ideally suited for printing on canvas. A 2.75 inch (7 cm) ‘Museum style’ white margin is added to each side of the picture to allow for stretching/mounting. After completing the payment process, you will immediately receive a download link for your picture.