Tilila is the founder of Amazing Amazigh which aims in sharing about Amazigh culture, history & social rights. The Imazighen are the original people and tribes of the North Africa region that continue to preserve their heritage. Tilila shared with us about her Amazigh identity and how it has motivated her to spread awareness about the Imazighen to the international community.
“Disclaimer: These are my personal views. I do not pretend to represent the whole Amazigh community, which is highly diverse and would have differing opinions from mine."
I am Tachelhit, which means I am originally from Southern Morocco in a region called Souss, located in the Anti-Atlas Mountains. The predominant Amazigh group is the Ichelhin, speaking Tachelhit dialect. In a broader sense, I am Amazigh, which is a nation that includes other groups/tribes like Rifians (Northern Morocco), Kabyles (Northern Algeria), Chaouis (Eastern Algeria), Kel Tamasheq (Touaregs), & more.
I would say that traditionally Imazighen are really prideful of their roots, culture, & language, yet they are not a homogenized people as each region has its own traditions & food. However, for centuries we have shared a history of occupation & colonization, which I think contributed to a sense of resistance and rebellion amongst Imazighen communities, who are constantly fighting to preserve their heritage. Despite being marginalized, Imazighen have always found ways to raise their voices, even under tough political circumstances, which I greatly admire about my community.
From a more social perspective, I believe that family is an important aspect of Imazighen values. Protecting our family, even our tribe in more rural areas is a core value that allows us to stay connected to our traditions & cultures, since it is mostly parents who pass down the language, customs, way of living, etc. There is an expression in Tachelhit, “Agharas Agharas”, which describes the integrity of Imazighen as always loyal to their values.
It is really difficult not to make generalizations, so I would say it depends on each individual. Some are “Arabized Imazighen” as we say, so they don’t really care about their Amazigh origins and just share their nationality, while others would first tell you which region they come from before sharing their nationality. The Imazighen diaspora will often proudly claim their Amazigh identity, but I don’t think that claiming you’re Amazigh means you’re not proud of your country. These two identities (national/regional) are totally compatible; you can love your country and your Amazigh identity at the same time.
Statistically speaking, Morocco’s recognition of Amazigh people has been more accelerated than Algeria’s since the Amazigh people make up a larger percentage of the population (33%). The Moroccan king recognized Tamazight as an official language in 2011 and was the first country to do so, whereas Algeria has a strong history of Arabization. The Algerian government rejected the Amazigh identity in 1962 in order to create a solely Arab Muslim identity while denying the existence of minorities and other cultures in the country. But in 2016, Algeria recognized Tamazight as an official language and Yennayer (Amazigh New Year) as a national holiday in 2018. So, with different timelines, the Imazighen were finally recognized by the Algerian & Moroccan governments but only after decades of revolts & social movements.
As I mentioned, our history. I am really fascinated by the many rebellions & uprisings launched by the Imazighen throughout history. Moreover, the role of women is important. Legends such as Dihya (queen of the Aures famous for having fought against Arabs invasion) or Tin Hinan (considered the ancestor of the Touaregs of Hoggar, a chief of the Touareg confederation or a “tamenokalt”) truly contributed to Amazigh history.
I hope that Amazing Amazigh will become an educational & collaborative platform where we can share knowledge and deconstruct the misconceptions around Amazigh culture & history. It is an independent project that I wanted to create a long time ago, so here we are. I don’t know where it will lead me yet but that’s the exciting part I guess, life is always full of surprises!