AmazighWorld is a portal
to the world of the Amazigh. We encourage cooperation in order
to more efficiently gather information on language and traditions,
which may be lost if we do not coordinate our efforts and work
diligently toward preserving the information that we can still
gather from our grandparents and great-grandparents. But time
is running out.
Open the door to the world of the Amazigh, where tradition blends
with modernity, where the strength and courage handed down from
generations living the hard life of the mountains transforms into
the independent spirit that fights for its identity while pursuing
democratic ideals and professional ambitions of the 21st century.
This site focuses on issues dealing with the
native identity of north Africa. When referring to the Amazigh
people, the boundaries stretch across the _borders of all of north
Africa, and even beyond, including the Canary Islands, Mauritania,
Niger, etc. (The area including north Africa and the Canary Islands
is called Tamazgha, land of the Amazigh.)
Three terms, which should be kept straight are:
Amazigh, Imazighen, and Tamazight. The first is the singular for
the people and the culture. Imazighen is the plural. Tamazight
refers to the umbrella language group, as well as to a specific
regionalism of the language, spoken in some areas of Morocco and
Algeria. When the term is used by non-linguists, it inevitably
refers to the language of the Imazighen in general. The term "Amazigh"
is also used ideologically and politically to denote those who
identify themselves first and foremost as Amazigh (rather than,
for example, by the country of origin or as Muslim) and adhere
to principles of democracy and secularism.
The term "berber," while still used
by some, is problematic. The term is of Greek derivation, meaning
"foreigner" or "non-Greek speaker." The people,
however, have historically referred to themselves as the people
of Mazices (i.e., Amazigh), and there are early references to
that effect in Roman and ancient Egyptian texts. Many names have
been given to the Amazigh by others, including Libyans, Afrikans,
Numidians, etc., but the term "berber" stuck, probably
due to the history written by north African historian, Ibn Khaldun.
Nevertheless, the term has a derogatory connotation. In the case
of Algeria, the government uses "berber" as an equivalent
to "Kabyle" (people of or originating from Kabylia,
in the north-central region of the country). When referring to
other Imazighen, the regional name will be used (i.e., Chaoui,
M'zoabite, Touareg, Targui, etc.). The government's specific use
of the term, which is also used by many Algerians, causes confusion
in regard to statistics relating to the number of "berbers,"
which has been interpreted by the media as all berbers.
Another problem with the word "berber"
is that it has been used to refer only to those who have retained
the language or whose parents have retained the language. It also
brings images to many minds of traditional people of the desert
or the mountains. In reality, most of the people of Tamazgha are
of Amazigh descent. At least 90 percent of the population of countries
such as Morocco, Algeria, Libya, etc. can claim some Amazigh ancestry.
The identity of "arab" is based on the official language
of these countries (in the Canary Islands, it is Spanish), but
this Arab identity has been artificially enforced through strong
arabization programs with the intent of wiping out the native
identity, language, and culture. The program goes so far as to
disallow Amazigh names, either through written law or through
other pressures, lists of accepted names existing in both Morocco
and Algeria, where movements to reclaim the native identity are
the most visible.
Nevertheless, both "Berber" and "Amazigh"
are used in these pages. While many authors, including Amazigh
themselves, will use "berber" since it is the most commonly
known word, others, make a distinction between the ethnicity
and the ideology. Berber is used either as a general ethnicity
or, more often to refer to those who merely speak the language
or whose first language in the home was Tamazight, but who have
no awareness of their own identity or are the equivalent of what
is called in the US, "Uncle Toms," (i.e., harkis,
traitors to their own people). Amazigh is used for those who strive
for self-identification as Amazigh, i.e., as an ideology.
Anyone who wishes to include an article in this
area to help educate people about the Amazigh--the language, culture,
the people's struggles for the right to self-identification--is
welcome and encouraged to send the document to firstname.lastname@example.org
Articles considered polemical will be included in the editorials
section. However, please avoid the use of racist or otherwise
offensive terminology. AmazighWorld retains the right to refuse