A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, March 9, 2012

Tunisian Amazigh Seeking Higher Profile

The first conference held in the city of Tunis seeking to promote greater awareness of  Tunisian Amazigh ("Berber") culture and language has been held, the latest step in growing Amazigh activism in Tunisia. The Sixth World Amazigh Congress was held in Djerba in October, the first time it had assembled in that country.

With far fewer Tamazight speakers than Morocco or Algeria or even Libya, Tunisian Imazighen have enjoyed little awareness among their countrymen; while most North Africans may well be of Amazigh ancestry, the language is spoken in Tunisia today only on the island of Djerba and a few small localities in the south of the country. Besides those four countries, Amazigh languages are also spoken in the Siwa Oasis of Egypt and in Mauritania as well as among the Tuareg across a wide swath of the Saharan countries.
Amazigh Flag

But Tunisian activism has been growing.  A cultural association was formed last year and increasingly,  activists have been getting more press coverage; activist Ines Fezzani, quoted in the last link, is active on Twitter (@TunisianAmazigh) and on the "Reviving Amazigh Identity Facebook page, which covers news from all the Maghreb countries. There's a Tunisian-specific Amazigh website (in French) from the town of Tamazret here.

And here's a music video with photos celebrating the Imazighen of Tunisia.

1 comment:

David Mack said...

One sees plenty of signs in Tunisian carpets, other textiles and jewelry of Amazigh influence in visual designs and other decorative art. Often, I believe, many symbols and designs were conveyed from one generation to another through women's tatoos and henna decoration of hands. On the other hand, I was completely unaware of any impact on Tunisian Arabic. That was probably due in part to spending the greatest part of my time in Tunis, where the strong impact of French on Tunisian spoken Arabic drowns out other influences. At least to my non-linguist's ear.