A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Libya's Concert for Amazigh New Year, and Belated Greetings

I'm a day or so late this year in wishing my Amazigh readers a happy New Year 2963. Due to other commitments I let it slip past me. But this gives me occasion to link to this report of the  unprecedented Amazigh New Year's concert held in Tripoli on Saturday. As the Libya Herald's report notes, "There has been nothing like it in Tripoli ever seen before." Further from that report:
A huge jubilant crowd poured into the main football stadium in Tripoli last night, Saturday, for the first celebration in more than 40 years of the Amazigh New Year, which started today. It is the year 2963 in the Amazigh calendar.
From around 5pm, several thousand people from all Amazigh and non-Amazigh towns and places across the country descended on the stadium in Tripoli’s Sport’s City for a concert that it was — so far — one of its kind.
The crowd filled the entire stadium and seats were eagerly sought by them families that had come along for the event. There were far more people than had been expected.  “It means everything to us ” said Salam Al-Arussi, a teacher and Amazigh rights activist.
“It has always been a dream and I never thought I would live to witness such day, I am so overwhelmed with happiness — and frustration that I didn’t do what youngsters did and overthrow the tyrant” said Ahmed Abodaya, a 47-year-old engineer attending the event.
I explained here last year how the traditional North African Berber or agricultural calendar begins its new year on the old Julian calendar New Year, now January 14 (though many Algerian Amazigh observe on January 12).  In that blog post I also noted that the dating system is a modern "invention of tradition," choosing to date the calendar from the Pharaoh Shoshenq I, considered by Berber nationalists as the "first Amazigh in history." So this is the year 2963.

Here are stories  on the celebrations in Morocco and on how Algeria banned a march by a Kabyle separatist movement. though clearly the real story is the celebration in Tripoli, where under Qadhafi the regime banned Amazigh language, names, and cultural elements, even denying the very existence of a separate culture. Also see a BBC account here with  a video (which I can't embed here) on the concert and the first Amazigh-language magazine in Libya.

Here is a short video clip of the Tripoli concert that is embeddable:


David Mack said...

Who knew that the "Arab" Spring would lead to a resurgence of Amazigh identity?

David Mack said...

Amazigh identity in Arab Maghreb and Kurdish identity in Arab Levant.