Berber. ... The Berbers live in scattered communities across Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Niger, and Mauretania. They speak various Amazigh languages belonging to the Afro-Asiatic family related to Ancient Egyptian.
Berber culture is essentially oral
The Berbers call themselves "Amazigh", men, free men, and it is the same word, in the feminine, Tamazight, which designates the language. Berber culture is defined first of all by its language, even if today, one can still be Berber by being more than anarabophone. (And the Amazigh movements federated around the defense of the language: teaching or not, transcription in a system of characters or another carry at the same time political issues). This language has an alphabet, the Tifinagh, which had fallen into oblivion and until the 60s, was only used in its archaic version by the Tuaregs. After independence, the transcription system in Latin characters was abandoned, and RIAC ( Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture ) set up a modern tifinagh, which is now used in Morocco.
The Berber culture, for centuries, has been a culture of orality, that of the stories that are exchanged when one finds oneself at the oasis, those of the tales at the camp fire vigil, proverbs, and walking songs, during the long traverses of the desert. And this love of the verb is found in the songs, often embroidered and modified around an existing plot, according to the assistance, according to what happens in the village ... just like the songs of the women, those who punctuate the work of the songs, the innumerable towers of the millstone to prepare the couscous flour.
A culture that goes back to "before history"
The components of Berber culture are many, diverse, but their amalgam shows the different origins.
The Berbers were in the Maghreb before the Romans, and they hold their Julian calendar, and no doubt their carnival rites, which now take place at Achoura. They were, before being converted to Islam, pagan, worshipers of springs and trees, and perhaps held Phoenicians - who opened counters in Mauritania - their respect for the moon. Some tribes were converted to Judaism, and it is said that Kahina, the Berber Queen of the Aurés who resisted so long against Arab armies, was a Jewish queen. It is difficult to date the arrival of the Berbers, yet the culture has remained very strong over the centuries, and for those who have been living for a short time in Morocco, it is easy to say if a woman is Berber or Arab to his clothes, to recognize, even without speaking the language, the difference between Berber and Arabic, whose sounds are different, even if the languages are close. Between tuaregs, rifains, kabyles, chleuhs and Amazighs, of course, there are many differences, but a common background, a relatively democratic social organization, where the chiefs were elected, where, as with the Celts, each family, each tribe, each fraction was too independent to be able to ally with others, and preferred to cut itself in two as soon as it reached a certain size, a common background also in the artistic reasons, these geometrical decorations whose abstraction goes back to before Islam, and whose forms recall, again, the Celtic motives. For more than two thousand years, Amazigh culture has resisted assimilation, or rather, negotiated with its neighbors, to be able to always exist. This is probably why, often, in the depths of a small village, or in the tent of a nomad, one has the impression that the time is not the same, and that one is left in a strange journey, which brings back to an ancient time.
Nomadic traditions and peasant traditions
Musics are work songs, or harvest festival songs, such as "tizrrarin", the song of women's work, or ahwach or ahidous. Life is marked by the rhythm of the seasons, we used to marry in October, after the harvests, and the moussems, whether dates in Erfoud, the meeting of the tribe at Imilchil, or roses at kelaa took place Once the harvest is made, and the money available, to be able to make purchases and the party. Hospitality remains that of the nomads, for which the host is always entitled to a place under the tent, protection against the hostile desert, and the Berber "tea ceremony" is that of the welcome and the pleasure of sharing. Traditional medicine, the charms that protect young children are those of people who roamed the country. Alliances, friendships and tribal hatreds are linked to water and pasture sharing, cooperation and battles for the few green valleys in a semi-desert country. And all this is found in the carpets that girls wove for their wedding. And in the cities, even if the language is lost, the link remains strong with the family remained at the 'bled' (in the countryside), with the traditions transmitted by the parents, the grandparents, and we find the "Berber touch "in many things of everyday life.
Very present traditions, even in a modern world
Of course, depending on whether you are in a big city or a small village, the traditions are different in everyday life, but they are always followed. Whether for traditional festivals, for weddings or births, as part of everyday life, Berber culture is present. And in the south, especially, it is common to see women still dressed in traditional clothes, or wearing party makeup with henna or saffron. The traditional songs resound in the streets of ksours, the berber rugs are always made with the traditional motifs, the purchase-jewelery alleviate and adapt to the modern life while keeping their decorations.
Author : J.Rodi