ⴰⵡⴰⵍ ⵉⵏⵓ ⵉⴳⴰ ⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖ. ⴰⵡⴰⵍ ⵏⵏⴰⵖ ⵓⵔⵜ ⵏⵖⵔⵉ ⵖ ⵜⵉⵏⵎⵍ ⵓⵍⴰ ⵏⵍⵎⴷⵜ ⵖ ⵉⴷⵍⵉⵙⵏ ⵉⵔⵙⵎⵉⵢⵏ. ⴰⵡⴰⵍ ⵏⵏⵖ ⵜⵜⵓⵏⵜ ⴱⴰⵀⵔⴰ ⵏ ⵎⴷⴷⵏ ⴰⵛⴽⵓ ⵓⵔ ⵙⵙⵏⵏ ⴰⵜⵉⴳ ⵏⵙ. ⴰⵜⵉⴳ ⵏ ⵡⴰⵡⴰⵍ ⵏ ⵢⴰⵏ ⵓⵔ ⵉⴷⵔⵓⵙ ⴰⵛⴽⵓ ⵀⴰⵏ ⴰⵡⴰⵍ ⴰⵢⴳⴰⵏ ⴰⴼⴳⴰⵏ. ⵢⴰⵏ ⵓⵔ ⴷⴰⵔ ⵡⴰⵡⴰⵍ ⵓⵔ ⵉⴳⵉ ⵢⴰⵜ. ⴰⵡⴰⵍ ⵖ ⵜⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ ⴷⴰⵔⵙ ⵙⵉⵏ ⵉⵏⵓⵎⴰⴽ; ⴰⵎⵣⵡⴰⵔⵓ ⵉⴳⴰ ⵜⵓⵜⵍⴰⵢⵜ; ⵡⵉⵙ ⵙⵉⵏ ⵉⴳⴰ ⴰⵏⴱⴰⴹ. ⵉⵖ ⴰⴽ ⴽⴽⵙⵏ ⴰⵡⴰⵍ ⵀⴰⵜⵉ ⴽⴽⵙⵏ ⴰⴽ ⵢⴰⵏ ⴳ ⵉⵣⵔⴼⴰⵏ ⵏⴽ ⵉⵅⴰⵜⴰⵔⵏ. ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ ⵓⵔ ⵜⴳⵉ ⴽⴰ ⵡⴰⵡⴰⵍ. ⵜⴳⴰ ⵉⴷⴰⵎⵎⵏ ⵉⵜⵜⴰⵣⵣⴰⵍⵏ ⵖ ⵉⵥⵓⵕⴰⵏ ⵏⵏⵖ. ⵜⴳⴰ ⴷⴰⵖ ⵉⵥⵓⵕⴰⵏ ⵢⵓⵎⵥⵏ ⵖ ⵡⴰⴽⴰⵍ, ⵙ ⵜⵎⴰⴳⵉⵜ, ⵙ ⵓⴼⴳⴰⵏ ⵏ ⵜⵎⴰⵣⵖⴰ. ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ ⵓⵔ ⵜⵎⵎⵓⵜ ⵎⵇⵇⴰⵔ ⵣⵔⵉⵏ ⵎⵏⵏⴰⵡ ⵏ ⵉⵙⴳⴳⵯⴰⵙⵏ ⵉⵍⵍⵉⵖ ⵓⵔ ⴰⵙ ⵉⵜⵢⴰⴼⴽⴰ ⵢⴰⵜ. ⵜⵖⴰⵡⵙⵉⵡⵉⵏ ⴷⴰ ⵉⵣⵔⵉⵏ ⵓⵍⴰ ⵜⵉⵍⵍⵉ ⵏⵣⵔⵔⴰ ⵖ ⵉⵙⵓⵢⴰⵙ ⵍ ⵜⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ. ⵜⴰⵅⴰⵜⴰⵔⵜ ⴳⵉⵙⵏⵜ ⵜⴳⴰⵜ "ⵜⴰⵏⴽⵔⴰ ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ" ⵍⵍⵉ ⵖⴰ ⵏⵙⵖⴰⵔ ⵖ ⵜⵙⴽⵍⴰ ⴷ ⵍⴼⵉⵍⵎ ⵏ ⵜⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ. ⵉⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵏ ⵙⵃⵢⴰⵏⴷ ⵜⵓⵜⵍⴰⵢⵜ ⵏⵙⵏ, ⵙⵃⵢⵓⵏⴷ ⵜⴰⵎⴰⴳⴰⵢⵜ ⵏⵙⵏ, ⵙⵃⵢⵓⵏⴷ ⵓⵍⴰ ⵜⴰⵙⵇⵇⵏⵜ ⴷⴰ ⵜⵏ ⵉⵣⴷⵉⵏ ⵙ ⵡⴰⴽⴰⵍ ⵏⵙⵏ. ⴰⵙⵙ ⴰⴷ, ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ ⵜⵣⵀⵔ ⵜⵉⴳⵉⵔⴰ ⵏ ⵜⴳⵔⴰⵡⵍⴰ ⵖ ⵜⴷⵍⵙⴰ ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ ⵓⵔⴷ ⴽⴰ ⵖ ⵜⵎⴰⵣⵖⴰ ⵎⴰⵛ ⵓⵍⴰ ⵖ ⵜⵎⵓⵔⴰ ⵢⴰⴹⵏⵉⵏ ⵣⵓⵏⴷ ⵖ ⵓⵔⵓⵒⵒⴰ ⴷ ⵎⴰⵔⵉⴽⴰⵏ.
ⴰⵡⴰⵍ ⵏⵏⵖ ⵓⵔ ⵉⴷⵔⵓⵙ ⵎⴰⴳⵉⵙ ⵉⵜⵢⵓⵔⴰⵏ ⵏ ⵉⵇⵚⵉⴹⵏ ⴷ ⵜⵓⵍⵍⴰⵙⵉⵏ ⴷ ⵓⵏⴳⴰⵍⵏ. ⵉⴳⴳⵓⵜ ⵎⴰⴷ ⵢⴰⴷ ⵉⵜⵢⴰⵔⴰⵏ ⵙ ⵜⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ. ⴰⵡⴰⵍ ⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖ ⵖ ⴳⵔ ⵉⵡⴰⵍⵉⵡⵏ ⵏ ⴷⴷⵓⵏⵉⵜ ⵉⴳⴰ ⵢⴰⵏ ⵡⴰⵡⴰⵍ ⴰⵇⴱⵓⵔ ⵍⵍⵉⵖ ⵍⵍⴰⵏⵜ ⴱⴰⵀⵔⴰ ⵏ ⵡⴰⵜⵉⴳⴳⵏ ⴷ ⵜⵉⵎⵙⵙⵉⵔⴷⵉⵏ.
ⵢⴰⵜⴰ ⵎⴰ ⵉⵜⵜⵉⵏⵉ ⵢⴰⵏ ⵎⴰⵛ ⴹⴹⵓⵕ ⴰⴷ ⵏⵔⴰ ⴰ ⵏⴰⵔⴰ ⴰⵡⴰⵍ ⵙ ⵜⵓⵜⵍⴰⵢⵜ ⵏ ⵜⵄⵔⴰⴱⵜ ⴷ ⵜⵏⴳⵍⵉⵣⵜ ⴼⴰⴷ ⴰ ⵜⵄⵓⵎⵎⵓ ⵍⴼⴰⵢⴷⴰ ⵓⵍⴰ ⵎⵉⴷⴷⵏ ⵍⵍⵉ ⵓⵔ ⵙⵙⵏ ⵉ ⵜⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ.
Amazigh language and culture are witnessing a hard-won tankra (awakening). Shifting from a marginalized identity that was confined to enclaves and isolated areas, Amazigh culture has become, in a matter of a few decades, an urban phenomenon, transforming the public sphere and changing the way Amazighity is lived. The increasing emergence of Tamazight as a cultural reality in the public arena has indeed transformed states, politics, and societies in Tamazgha (the broader North Africa). Previously the domain of Arabic and French, the Tamazghan public sphere is now complicated by the ubiquity of the written markers of the land’s native language. The current Tankra Tamazight—the Amazigh awakening—is the result of years of relentless activism to redress the official disconnect between the states, the land and the people, and their cultural and linguistic roots. Several generations of Amazigh activists, artists, intellectuals, litterateurs, and linguists, both in Tamazgha and its diasporas, have channeled their energy toward revitalizing their language and culture, orchestrating one of the most impactful, albeit still undertheorized, indigenous movements in the world today.
Photo by Brahim El Guabli
Thanks to their multipronged approaches to the collection, documentation, and (re)invention of Amazigh cultural heritage, Amazigh intellectuals have triggered the newest of a series of Amazigh nahḍas. Spearheaded by Amazigh scholars and polymaths in the Souss region between Arabic and Amazigh languages, the previous renaissances took place within a literary and religious sphere in which Arabic was the language of erudition and Islamic knowledge. The renaissance that we are discussing in this introduction is, however, different and has both local and global ramifications that build on and surpass the legacy of the earlier Arab-Islamic-centered renaissances. Tankra Tamazight refers to a sociopolitical and cultural project that seeks the revitalization of Amazigh language and its diverse cultural expressions in different media through the prism of indigeneity, enunciating a new configuration of the cultural North Africa and its adjacent literary and geo-cultural spaces. Approached from the perspective of tankra Tamazight, which centers Amazighitude (active consciousness of one’s Amazigh indigeneity in all its dimensions) as Tamazgha’s cornerstone identity, the Mediterranean, Europe, and the Maghreb all acquire a different meaning. This new reality, which is announced by the advent of tankra Tamazight, reveals that neither the usual analytical tools nor the ordinary linguistic categorizations can capture the significance of this change, which, sooner or later, will lead to the reconfiguration of an entire field of study through the foregrounding of Amazigh indigeneity and experiences.
Photo credit: Liberté-Algérie.
The constitutional and administrative changes brought about by the Tamazghan uprisings in tandem with the “Arab revolts” have been salutary to Imazighen (Amazigh people). Protests forced states to make concessions that would have taken decades to come to fruition. The Moroccan Constitution of 2011 has officialized the status of Amazigh language, crowning a process that was started by the establishment of the Institut Royal de la Culture Amazighe (IRCAM) in 2001. Ten years later, in 2019, an organic law has spelled out the meaning of this officialization. Likewise, Algeria has made important strides toward the normalization of Amazigh language. Since 1995, the Haut Commissariat à l'Amazighité was tasked with the hefty task of “rehabilitating Amazighity and promoting Amazigh language.” The 2016 constitutional reform made Amazigh a national language, and the Algerian Academy of Amazigh Language was put in place in 2018. Libyan Imazighen have been very vocal about the need to acknowledge their linguistic and cultural rights in the aftermath of Qadhafi’s bloody ouster from power. There is a remarkable difference between Qadhafi’s state repression of any public manifestation of Amazighitude, which I define as regaining consciousness and acting upon one’s Amazigh identity, and the current polity’s increasing accommodation of Libyan Imazighen’s demands. Banners and documentation written in Tifinagh have become a normal sight in Libya, extending the sense of Amazighity to this inherently Amazigh land. Tunisian Imazighen continue their struggle for recognition. An effort that will certainly be complicated by Kais Saied’s blockage of the democratic process and the likely reactionary political program that will emerge from the current constitutional stalemate. Chad, Mali, and Niger Imazighen had already acquired their educational rights before their northern neighbors.
Whatever happens in Tamazgha in the future, there is no returning back to the pre-2011 status quo. The time when even Tamazight’s existence and worthiness of being spoken or taught could be questioned is now past. Amazigh language is no longer a pariah, and many formerly Arabized Imazighen are realizing that they are at a disadvantage for not knowing the language of their ancestors. This said, the Arab Uprisings may have sped up the recognition of Amazigh rights in some places while allowing Imazighen to go more public with their demands in others, but what we know for sure is that the yeast of Amazigh activism has been ripening the dough of its cultural and political recognition throughout Tamazgha for a little over a hundred years.
The transformative tankra we witness today is the culmination of a long process of resilience, strategizing, and resistance in a mostly inimical political environment. Newly independent Maghrebi states chose linguistic and political unification over cultural and linguistic diversity. Still haunted by the French Berber policy, many a nationalist leader conflated the colonial state’s opportunistic use of Amazigh identity to advance its colonial project with Amazigh people’s aspirations for recognition of their cultural and linguistic rights. Imazighen did not claim Gallicization nor were they partners in designing the political project that idealized them as assimilable, “natural” allies of the French. In both Algeria and Morocco, French colonial administrators developed policies, produced literature, made decisions, and decreed orders that instrumentalized the cultural and linguistic difference between Arabs (or Arabes Musulmans as the French called them) and Imazighen (who are also Muslim) to serve French interests. Imazighen were never consulted, and their input never informed these policies.
Nevertheless, Imazighen were multiply penalized by the post-independence rulers for political designs that they had no hand in. Their patriotism was questioned, and their contribution to the struggle for independence was diminished, placing them in a position in which they had to prove themselves in their own indigenous homeland. This post-colonial obliteration of Amazigh cultural and linguistic rights literally pushed the majority of Imazighen outside the realm of citizenship. Folklorized, disempowered, and forgotten about in the refashioned collective memory of the post-independence states, Imazighen’s glorious history of cultural and literary prowess was de facto banned from circulation in the public arena. A sizable component of the Tamazghan social fabric was orphaned overnight. Amazigh heroes fell into disregard; relegated to footnotes and one-line sentences in official history books. Their collective memory was gradually replaced by imported symbols whose names and value systems were foreign to the land and its culture. This drive to annihilate the elements of the Amazigh personhood did not prevent a pioneering and steadfast generation of Amazigh activists from asserting Tamazgha’s Amazighity and working to create the cultural and discursive conditions for its re-Amazighization.
Amazigh scholars, including those who were not activists, exhumed and took pride in their literary heritage. Muḥammad al-Mukhtār al-Sūsī, the most important Amazigh polymath in the twentieth century, articulated al-nahḍa al-‘ilmiyya al-sūsiyya (The Soussi Scientific Nahda) in his description of the cultural movement that took place in the southern part of Morocco starting from the sixteenth century. An erudite scion of one of the Darqāwī Sufi houses, al-Sūsī studied in Fez and taught in Marrakesh before the French protectorate authorities banished him to Iligh, south of Agadir, for five years during World War II. It is during this period that al-Sūsī traveled throughout the region to collect the intellectual production in the Souss. Confined to his books al-Ma‘sūl, Khilāl jazūla (Throughout Jazula), and Sūs al-‘ālima (The Learned Souss), among others, the information he culled during these trips is an edifying monument of Amazigh networks of knowledge production and dissemination. He writes that:
Knowledge was abundant in the Souss thanks to [the widespread] learning and authorship [of books], and continuous educational missions to Fes and Marrakesh, and even to the Azhar […] to the extent that almost everything that was being taught in al-Qarawiyyīn was also taught in the Souss.
Al-Sūsī shows an acute awareness of the scientific and aesthetic criteria that specialists used to ascribe value to the literary and religious works. The internal Amazigh nahḍas al-Sūsi describes happened in total symbiosis between Arabic and Tamazight within a culturally Amazigh environment. It was in fact an embodiment of the bilingualism that some historians have already underlined in their scholarship.
Unlike the exogenous Mashriqi Nahda that took place as a result of circulation of European languages and cultural traffic between Europe and the Middle East under Ottoman dominance, the nahḍa al-Sūsī argues happened in the Souss is an endogenous, indigenized renaissance that is both local and transregional. While the Mashāriqa looked toward Europe to renew their literature and thought under subjugation to the Turks, Amazigh polymaths and poets in the Souss composed poems in the already indigenized Arabic, wrote literary texts in the language of Islam, and, in the meantime, spurred a translation movement between Tamazight and Arabic at a time when Morocco was impenetrable to both Ottomans and Europeans. In an insightful essay about translation, Amazigh veteran Mohammed Chafik has written that “without translation, culture cannot but be close upon itself and petrify, sooner or later, because language is a living organic system, and any living structure that ceases exchanging with its environments is doomed." Translation between Tamazight and Arabic created a literary world in which these two languages cocreated each other, revitalizing Amazigh language and giving it its richest written form —in terms of available works—in Arabic script. Amazigh imagery and worldviews found their expression in the Arabic language and circulated among the most educated Amazigh scholars who relayed them to both students and uneducated people alike. The significance of this renaissance becomes even bigger when we contextualize it within an examination of the Soussi Sufi orders’ role in West Africa and beyond. Amazigh literary history would gain tremendously from investigating these connections and their contribution to the creation of a vital sphere in which Amazigh thought and literature traveled.
Al-Sūsī’s record of Amazigh poetry and prose belies the prevalent assumption that Amazigh literary heritage belongs to an oral-only culture. French historian Jacques Le Goff has distinguished between “memory-based” and “history-based” cultures, differentiating between learned societies endowed with a written tradition and primitive ones in which des "hommes-mémoires" transmit history orally across generations. In the Amazigh context, both systems cohabitated, but the myth of pure orality continued among some specialists. The categorical statement by Robert Aspinion, a colonial-era officer and scholar of Amazigh language, that "Berber is not a written language, there is no Berber writing" is a manifestation of this diehard propensity to brand some languages with the stamp of orality. Aspinion’s judgment is of course refuted by the multiple Amazigh manuscript holdings, which prove the existence of a systematized written tradition that lived hand in hand with an oral heritage for centuries in Tamazgha. Multiple factors might explain Aspinion’s and his ilk’s positions, including the fact that the Souss region, where most Amazigh manuscripts originate from, was a secluded area, which was, like most of the south of Morocco, inaccessible to European travelers until the 1930s. One has only to read Michel Vieuchange’s travelogue to Smara in 1930 to get a clear idea about the life-threatening nature of any attempt to adventure into the south.
As early as the eleventh century Souss was the locus of a systematic production and dissemination of Amazigh written works. We now know more about this tradition thanks to manuscript holdings in Aix-en-Provence and Leiden universities. Arsène Roux, who lived in Morocco since his military service in 1913, had acquired some two hundred complete manuscripts before donating his collection to Aix-en-Provence in 1971. Roux’s collection, which has manuscripts written between 1400 and 1900, includes, among others, Hawzali’s famous Ocean of Tears and al-Hawḍ and Ali Uhmad al-Ilighi’s Tafoukt n ddin (The Sun of Religion). Since the Netherlands became a home for Amazigh immigrants in the 1970s, Leiden University has collected some three hundred Amazigh manuscripts, including Ibn Tunart's twelfth-century dictionary Kitāb al-asmā' (The Book of Names), al-Hilāli's sixteenth-century bilingual dictionary, and Tizniti's Tashlḥyt Glossary. Outside Morocco, one of the oldest manuscripts was discovered in Tunisia in the early twentieth century. Possessed by Rebillet, a commandant in the French administration in Tunis, this 594-page manuscript is written in both Arabic and Amazigh. The aforementioned al-Sūsī listed tens of names of pre-20th century Amazigh authors in his compendia Sūs al-'ālima and Rijālāt al-'ilm fī Sūs (The Men of Knowledge in the Souss). These works are only the tip of a rich manuscript iceberg whose bulk remains inaccessible. Qur'an Burghwata (Burghwata Quran), the first Amazigh translation of the Quran, dating back to the eleventh century has yet to be found. Al-Mahdi ibn Tūmrt, the founder of the Almohad empire (twelfth-fourteenth centuries), had also translated seven chapters of the Quran, authored an 'Aqīda (Doctrine), and a book on Cleanliness and Signs of the Hypocrite, which scholars consider missing. Political instability and accusations of heresy may be responsible for the loss of many Amazigh religious manuscripts.
Research on Amazigh literature leaves no room for doubt about the temporal depth of taskla n tmazight, ladab n tmazight or al-adad al-amazīghī (Amazigh literature). However, the field of Amazigh literary studies, as a scholarly area, is still in progress, and Amazighologists are still debating its disciplinary boundaries. It is not fortuitous that the editor of La littérature amazighe underlines the urgency of "determin[ing] the characteristics of Amazigh literary language and propos[ing] a metalanguage that expresses its specificity." Amazighologists have also faced questions regarding the relationship between ethnicity and language of literary production. Specifically, how to judge and assess an oeuvre’s Amazighity and whether all authors whose mother tongue is Amazigh belong to the Amazigh literary canon regardless of their languages of publication. Periodization is also a pressing question for Amazigh literature scholars. For instance, the Moroccan editors of bibliographia al-adad al-amazighi (The Bibliography of Amazigh Literature) set the publication of Aḥmad Amzāl’s poetry collection Amanār in 1968 as the beginning of Moroccan Amazigh literature. This questionable periodization is based on a very narrow understanding of literature, which excludes, intentionally or inadvertently, the aforementioned Amazigh manuscript tradition. By starting with Saint Augustine and others who wrote in Latin, Mohand Akli Haddou and Mohammed Chafik provide a much more reasonable history, opening the space of Amazigh literary tradition to a variety of linguistic expressions within an Amazigh literary mold. Adab, according to Roger Allen, "has arrived at that meaning [literature] via an interesting route, one that begins with something very akin to education and manners before being used to describe the varied activities of these important contributors to the cultural values of Arab society." The development of the notion of adab in Arabic as a locus for moral, spiritual, and intellectual refinement applies to ladab or ṣṣwāb in Amazigh, which al-Sūsī has already underlined in his bilingual dictionary. This could potentially help assess the literary value of Amazigh hagiographies, eschatological texts, and homilies written in Arabic.
This cursory discussion of Amazigh literature cannot do justice to the richness of this tradition. However, this short review is meant to demonstrate that the current tankra Tamazight is underlain by hundreds of years of prolific production and dissemination of knowledge in Amazigh language. Older generations of Amazigh religious scholars accepted Arabic language without much ado about its hegemony over their native tongue. As long as the fabric of their intellectual world was wedded to Arabic by Islam, they felt no contradiction in subduing their mother tongue to the religious authority of Arabic, their spiritual language. Unlike their predecessors, the new generations, who spurred the tankra Tamazight in the post-independence Tamazgha, staged an insurgency against the minoritization of the mother tongue of millions of Imazighen in their homeland. Dissimilarly to the aforementioned al-Sūsī and his brand of religious scholars, who took pride in the mastery of all forms of arts and sciences in Arabic, the post-independence generation of Amazigh intellectuals, including some of al-Sūsī’s students, made a radical break from this position and adopted a more belligerent stance that complicates the understanding of the imbrication of religion and language in Tamazgha. Later activists, especially the ones who emerged in the 1960s and the 1970s, found inspiration in Marxism, critical theory, and post-colonial studies to develop critical conceptions of tamagit Tamazight (Amazigh identity). This development had significant consequences for language and indigeneity in Tamazgha.
The encounter with colonialism instigated younger Imazighen’s engagement in individual projects that aimed at preserving their literary heritage. The earliest effort to document this heritage appeared in Kabyle. Undertaken by educated Kabyle speakers, these efforts led to the compilation and preservation of important literary works. Salem Chaker talks about instituteurs (school teachers) who used workbooks to collect stories, poetry, legends, proverbs, and any other forms of literary production in their language. Usually transcribed in Latin alphabet and translated into French, these materials provided the foundation for the development of a Latinized Amazigh alphabet. Thanks to this early work, we have inherited multiple compendia by Amar U Said Boulifa, Mouloud Feraoun, and others who recorded the works of the famous Kabyle poet Si Mohand-ou-Mhand. The work of this francophone intelligentsia rehabilitated the Amazigh language and culture and created the foundations for what later became Tafsut Tamazight (Amazigh Spring) in Algeria. Moroccan Amazigh activists gained a belated consciousness of Amazighitude compared to their Algerian counterparts. In reality, French colonialism educated fewer Moroccans than Algerians, leaving Sufi zawāya and Quranic schools to play a central role in education, even after Morocco’s independence. As a result of these different educational trajectories, Amazigh documentation efforts did not start in Morocco until the formation of the Moroccan Association for Research and Cultural Exchange (AMREC) in 1967. All AMREC’s leaders had a very strong mastery of Arabic, which explains their invention of what they called Arrātn (Manuscripts) method to write Amazigh in Arabic letters. This difference in terms of cultural consciousness and education played a major role in the kind of approaches and discourses that activists adopted in the process of recognition of Amazigh language and cultural rights. These linguistic lines of demarcation also determined the geography of Amazigh activism. Algerian activists had a predominant presence in Europe whereas Moroccan activists deployed the notion of al-thaqāfa al-sha‘biyya (popular culture) and al-turāth (heritage) to advance their cause within Morocco itself.
The focus on al-turāth (patrimoine), represented by popular culture, was a strategy to elude state control. In a climate of political repression of explicitly Amazigh activity in the public sphere, al-turāth, which Amazigh activists left both undefined or unqualified, was subversive. Moroccan AMREC subverted the regime’s own discourse about authenticity and modernity by defining its mission within a restorative project that seemingly did not clash with the statal praise of heritage. Turāth included both Darija and Tamazight, and the authorities could not go against their own praise of heritage as an anchor of Moroccan identity. Jami‘yyat al-jāmi‘a al-ṣayfiyya bi-agādīr (Association of the Summer University in Agadir) organized a series of conferences, including one on “al-thaqāfa al-sha‘biyya bayna al-maḥallī wa-al-waṭanī” (Popular culture between the local and the national). An impressive lineup of Amazigh activists and foremost scholars of popular culture contributed texts on Amazigh codicology, the mother tongue, Amazigh literary translation, Amazigh linguistics, and Amazigh dictionaries. Popular culture was an astute way to leave enough margin of maneuver for the authorities to pretend that Amazigh activism was not happening. Moreover, the scarcity of Amazigh written and cinematographic production hitherto also warranted the discussion of the body of knowledge that was mainly recuperable from daily life activities and lived experiences of its carriers, justifying the appeal of al-turāth.
Poetry is one of several areas in which the revitalization of Amazigh heritage has proved very fruitful. Mouloud Mammeri’s Les isfera: Poemes de Si Mohand-ou-Mhand and Omar Amarir’s al-Shi‘r al-amāzīghī al-mansūb ilā sīdī ḥammu (Amazigh Poetry Attributed to Sidi Hammou) are pillars of Amazigh literary awareness. Encapsulating the destructive impact French colonialism had on Amazigh communities in Algeria, Si Mohand’s family were persecuted by the French, losing, along the way, their wealth, authority, and social status. Si Mohand, according to the legend, received a revelation and made a promise to never say the same poem again. Leading a bohemian life, Si Mohand immersed himself all sorts of pleasures, expediting his homelessness and wanderlust. Drunkenness was essential to his flowing poetic improvisations. Similarly to the Moroccan poet Mohammed Ben Brahim, known as Shā‘ir al-Ḥamrā’ (Marrakesh), who declaimed his poems only when he reached a state of complete inebriety, Si Mohand relied on his friends to memorize his improvised poems. The similarity between Si Mohand and Moroccan poets does not stop here. In fact, Si Mohand is a version of the eighteenth century legendary poet Sidi Hammou Taleb. Known also as Bāb n Umarg (The Owner of Poetry), Sidi Hammou’s life is enveloped in myths and legends. Tradition has it that he was a student who learned the Quran and showed a precocious genius for poetry. His poems are full of wisdom, and convey lessons about all sorts of life experiences. Both Si Mohand and Sidi Hammou used their poetry to provide guidance, chant wisdom, and help their societies learn about the vicissitudes of time. Most importantly, they produced enough poems for a databank of oral poetry in Amazigh, helping scholars to reflect on the connection between orality and writing in Amazigh literature. Let readers get the idea that only men composed poetry, we hasten to add that Taougrat Oult Aissa, the blind poetess of the Middle Atlas, gave colonialism the hardest time through her poems.
Much has changed in Tamazgha between the early 1900s and our present moment. Yet, Amazigh writers have this literary history to refer to in their literary practice. Unlike the assessment of the colonial scholars in whose opinion Amazigh literature had no aesthetic value, the indigenous literary forms, in undergirding the current Amazigh literary innovation, played a more crucial role than any superfluous search of an elusive aesthetic. Amazigh literature is first and foremost a statement of existence, a voice that expresses an Amazigh worldview that is grounded in an existential experience. Unlike colonial scholars who based their value judgements of Amazigh literature on their Euro-centric benchmarks, expecting to find a match for what was happening in their own societies, Amazigh creators were generating an aesthetics that first and foremost responded to their societal needs in a language and rhetoric that were comprehensible to their people. Without bilking colonial scholars of the essential, albeit interested, role they played in preserving and restoring Amazigh language and culture, their projection of a Euro-centric understanding of aesthetic and linguistic beauty on a literary sphere that had its own conventions was simply prejudicial to the people whose cultural expression they trivialized. Imazighen valued and still continue to value lma‘na (production of abstract meaning), euphemism, indirect messages, and convoluted speech. Living in dangerous contexts, they had to invent a metalanguage within the spoken language to convey meaning without being explicit; to express opinions without being held accountable for any speech crimes.
Colonial scholars would probably reassess their dismissive comments if they visited isūyās (open air performance spaces) today to witness how much tanḍḍāmt (poetic jousts between several poets), for instance, has developed, feeding into an “Amazigh-YouTubia,” a pun between YouTube and Utopia, where millions of Imazighen across the globe enjoy a borderless “Amazigh-Utopia” online across the globe. Colonial administrators and scholars would be the first ones to be surprised to discover that the diaphanous and legible Amazigh mind they were searching for is much more complex than they thought. In his contribution to this dossier, Hassane Oudadene draws on this musical heritage to examine rwāys’ music as a form of collective memory.
Today’s Amazigh literary scene is much more complicated and varied than the one that Stumme and Basset, to mention just these two, found when they came to Tamazgha at the turn of the century. Amazigh tales, legends, mythologies, and poems still continue to form the substrate for a millennial civilization. However, tankra Tamazight has taken various shapes in the form of ungaln (novels), tullisin (short stories), amzgūn (theater) and iqsidn (poems). Hundreds of literary texts have been published in the last thirty years. Genres that colonial scholars lamented did not exist in the literary corpus they unearthed in their research are now entirely integrated into Amazigh literature. After a period of intense activist compilation of the old heritage, professional writers emerged, using modern creative writing tools to represent their world through their Amazigh eyes. Although the quality of the works varies, the flourishing Amazigh publication industry has created markers of a distinctive Amazigh literary identity. In their contributions, Mohamed Oussous and Mohammed Agounad, two prominent Amazigh fiction writers from Morocco, reflect respectively on the history of the short story and the novel in Amazigh language in the Tashlḥyt variety in the Souss region. Oussous and Agounad reveal the vibrancy of the Amazigh literary scene. A vibrancy that is met with readerly and critical interest. Books written in Tifinagh are now on display alongside books in Arabic or European languages in bookstores, discombobulating the linguistic hierarchies and undoing the decadelong acceptance of the absence of Amazigh language from public spaces. Lest we just focus on Tamazgha only, I wrote recently that there exists a “multilingual and transcontinental” Amazigh Republic of Letters that is “rooted in an Amazigh imaginary that harks back to a shared language and an ancestral land.” There is ample open space to ground the reading of Mohammed Khair-Eddine, Mouloud Memmeri, Najat al-Hachemi, and others in Amazigh literary tradition.
This literary and linguistic revival is not an individual endeavor. Amazigh literature presents an explicit example of the contribution of civil society to fashioning a contemporary aesthetic sensibility. Publishing houses, circulation networks, and marketing strategies are prerequisites for the production and dissemination of literary works in a market in which much is still in flux. Tirra, tazlgha n imarratn n tmazight (Tirra, the League of Writers in Amazigh) is an example of the work of civil society in the promotion of literature. Founded in 2009, Tirra has been at the forefront of literary innovation, publishing, and promoting all literary genres in Amazigh. Mohamed Agounad and Mohammed Ousous, two of the contributors to this dossier, are at the helm of the association, which seeks, among other things, to develop a critical literary language and spearhead Moroccan humanism from an Amazigh perspective. Tirra weds efforts to publish literary works with the equally important task of producing a critical language for a better appreciation of Amazigh literature. In his essay, Lahoucine Bouyakoubi investigates the role of civil society, particularly Tirra Association, in the publication and diffusion of the neo-Amazigh literature. Tirra is, of course, not the first to have undertaken such a project. Algerian activists have also put in place similar structures to disseminate their intellectual production.
The rich literary movement we witness in Tamazgha is not just limited to creative writing. Tasuqilt/tasughlt (translation) is one of the activities in which Amazigh creators have also worked to enrich the Amazigh language. Some of them rendered renowned literary texts into Tamazight. As early 1980, Lawyer Ahmed Dghirni attempted a translation of Romeo and Juliette into Amazigh. Habib Allah Mansouri translated George Orwell’s Animal Farm into Kabyle. The Amazigh translation of Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s Le petit prince has been published by IRCAM. These are only a couple examples among many others that reveal the extent to which tankra Tamazight is not just focused on producing literature in Amazigh language, but also in infusing the language with new ideas and worldviews from international literatures. In their article, Kahina Hireche and Ramdane Boukherrouf analyse the contribution of translation to the development of Amazigh literature.
Translation is the yeast that enlivens languages and broadens their capacity to contain and convey new meanings; creolizing thought. Imazighen have always been great translators because, by the force of their condition as speakers of a dominated language, had to learn and write in other languages. Whether we are speaking about Saint Augustine or Mohammed Khair-Eddine or Assia Djebar, to only mention the famous ones, Amazigh authors have had to self-translate into other languages, inhabit other realms, and address other intellectual sensibilities. Even the Quran has translated into Tamazight. Translations by Jouhadi El Houssaine and Mohand Tayeb have respectively rendered the holy text into Tashlḥyt and Kabyle. The recent nature of these translations does not mean that Imazighen had not translated the Quran before. In fact, Henri Basset has alluded to the existence of a translation of the Quran in Riffian Amazigh. These older translations are lost, and their loss cannot be dissociated from the strive to deny Imazighen their right to worship God in their own language. Translating the Quran into Amazigh is therefore a tremendous act of rebellion against the association of Arabic with the sacred, allowing Imazighen to expand the semantic capacity of their language.
Lfilm n Tmazight (Amazigh Cinema) Amazigh film is an important area in which Amazigh awakening has created a novel appreciation of Amazigh language and culture. Amazigh film has become a transnational and translingual reality that encompasses and connects Tamazgha and its diasporas. Whether defined along linguistic or cultural lines, Amazigh cinema carries distinct markers of its Amazighitude, lending itself to examinations of questions of identity, aesthetics, belonging, indigeneity, and social justice from an Amazigh perspective. Despite the difference between Morocco and Algeria in terms of the development of the Amazigh cinema, it is possible to say that cinematic awakening has taken the form of increased production of films, professionalization of the Amazigh cinematographic industry, and provision of financial support. The film industry was predominantly Arabic or francophone until the early 1980s and the middle of 1990s when the first Amazigh films were made respectively in Algeria and Morocco. Thanks to the creation of IRCAM in 2001, Moroccan Amazigh filmmakers have more access to public sponsorship, which allowed them to increase the numbers of films produced annually. The increase in the number of films produced is no testament to their quality. It only means that there is quite a large market for these films whose accessibility online has naturalized the use of Amazigh language in multimedia and created a new academic space for critique and analysis of Amazigh cinema. Making Amazigh films has opened up spaces for Amazigh script writers, décor specialists, and other paraprofessionals to build expertise in a highly specialized field. In her contribution, Latéfa Lafer discusses the development of Amazigh cinema in Algeria. Lafer defines the contours of this cinema and provides a comparative perspective for a trans-Tamazghan approach to the study of Amazigh film. In their essay, Yahya Laayouni and Lucy McNair provide their reflection on their work on New York Amazigh Film Festival in New York City.
Photo credit: Professor Abderrahman Janah
Amazigh art is also witnessing its own forms of renewal and transnationalization. After a period of folklorizing realism, which still continues to take the form of village-life-depicting murals in conspicuous locations in some cities, Amazigh art has become a space for Amazigh symbology, representing a more subversive and abstract consciousness through repurposed Tifinagh. It is true that Tifinagh has continuously been used in carpets and Amazigh jewelry in Amazigh homes, but the current uses of Tifinagh in art are representative of a more active deployment of an ordinary Amazigh symbology in a more abstract form. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and other online venues host an endless amount of artistic creations by Amazigh artists—some known while others are still making their way. The use of information technologies and graphic design technologies has pushed the doors wide open for a global Amazigh iconicity through art. Today Amazigh art addresses Imazighen, but also widen the scope of Amazigh visibility through swags and other Amazigh-conscious artists that build on artistic markers of indigeneity to conscientize the world about Amazigh indigeneity.
Photo credit: Artist Muha Tawargit
This short introduction has only focused on some aspects of the literary and filmic awakening in Tamazgha. Like any introduction, no matter how long it is, this one cannot do justice to the ever-growing manifestations of the Amazigh renaissance, which encompass the four corners of the world. Nevertheless, our readers should consider this short review as an invitation to think about the absence of such a vibrant literary and cinematographic corpus from academic curricula, language programs, and department staffing policies in Anglophone academia. Apart from some universities in France, Spain, and the Netherlands, where Amazigh professorships exist, the rest of the academic world has yet to rethink its structures to make curricular space for the latest indigenous renaissance in the world. Repairing historical injustice within a truly post-colonial approach requires revamping current Tamazgha-focused programs and hiring faculty part of whose research and teaching duties should include Amazigh language and culture. Real engagement with Amazigh texts and films in their original language is all the more crucial for a meaningful understanding of the new literary and intellectual North Africa. Amazigh activists, creative writers, and filmmakers have spurred an impressive revitalization of their culture in all its dimensions, it is high time that academic units, especially at large institutions that graduate Maghreb/Tamazgha scholars, adjusted their programs to train the new brand of Tamazgha specialists, equipping them with cutting-edge training that will enable them to study Amazigh cultural production in its own language. This is also an invitation to start using Tamazgha when referring to North Africa. Tamazgha may prove broader, richer, and much more ecumenical, geographically and culturally, than the geographical terms that are in use currently. Only when Amazigh studies are fully integrated into our current academic offerings and reading practices will we be able to enter the “indigenous era” in the study of Tamazgha, with all the disciplinary arrangements this centering of Amazigh indigeneity entails.
Read other articles in this dossier on Tankra Tamazight, Amazigh Revival, and Indigeneity in North Africa:
- On Translation as a New Perspective in Amazigh Literary Discourse by Ramdane Boukherrouf and Kahina Hireche
- Rwāys and Tirruyssā: A Symbolic Site of Amazigh Identity and Memory by Hassane Oudadene
- The Art of the Short Story in Tamazight in Southern Morocco: Inception, Evolution, and Expansion by Mohamed Oussous
- Amazigh Cinema and the New York Forum of Amazigh Film (NYFAF) by Yahya Laayouni and Lucy R. McNair
- Amazigh Film in Algeria: Deterritorialization of a National Cinema by Latéfa Lafer
- Amazigh Neo-Literature: The Challenge of Civil Society by Lahoucine Bouyaakoubi
- Algerian Literature in Amazigh: A Young Literature with a Promising Future by Habib-Allah Mansouri
- An Attempt at a Genealogical Study of the Short Story and Novel in Modern Amazigh Narrative by Mohammed Akounad
 Some of the ideas in this article are more fleshed out in the author’s forthcoming introduction to the Arab Studies Journal issue entitled “Where is the Maghreb? Theorizing a Liminal Space.”
 Brahim El Guabli, “(Re)Invention of Tradition, Subversive Memory, and Morocco's Re-Amazighization: From Erasure of Imazighen to the Performance of Tifinagh in Public Life,” Expressions Maghrébines 19(1) (2020), pp. 143-168.
 See the forthcoming introduction to the Arab Studies Journal.
 See the text of the decree: http://bdj.mmsp.gov.ma/Ar/Document/10396-Loi-organique-n-26-16-promulgu%C3%A9e-par-le-dahir-n-.aspx?KeyPath=594/596/595/10396
 This irredentist discourse predated independence. See Ibn Badis’s statements in Ahmed Al-Muslimani. Kharīf al-thawra (Algeria: Dār Laylā, 2015), 168.
 Interested readers can read the infamous “Berber Dahir,” which Moroccan nationalists used as a subterfuge to delegitimize Amazigh activism: http://www.unesco.org/culture/fr/indigenous/Dvd/pj/IMAZIGHEN/DAHIR%20BERBERE.pdf; See also Gilles Lafuente. La politique berbère de la France et le nationalisme marocain (Paris : L’Harmattan, 1999).
 In his article “Nationalisme algérien et identité berbère,” Peuples méditerranéens, 11(1980), 59-68, Mohamed Harbi provides a succinct and trenchant description of the different ways in which Imazighen were undermined in Algeria before, during and after the decolonization.
 This fascination with Berbers predates the occupation of Morocco. See René Moulin. Une année de politique extérieure (Paris: Librairie Plon, 1905).
 To learn more about Berber policy in Algeria, see Patricia M. E. Lorcin’s classic book, Imperial Identities: Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Race in Colonial Algeria (Lincoln: Nebraska University Press, 2014).
 Algérie: Quelle identité? Séminaire de Yakourten Août 1980 (Paris : Imedyazen, 1981), 9.
 Muḥammad Al-Muktār al-Sūsī. Sūs al-‘ālima (Mohammadia: Maṭba‘at Fḍāla, 1960), 20.
 Al-Ma‘sūl is twenty volumes whereas Khilāl jazūla is four volumes.
 al-Sūsī, Sūs al-‘ālima, 20.
 Mohamed Kably. Histoire du Maroc: Réactualisation et synthèse (Rabat: Publications de l’Institut Royal pour la Recherche sur l’Histoire du Maroc, 2012), 729-730.
 Mohammed Chafik. Min ajli maghārib maghāribiyya bi-al-awlawiyya (Rabat: Markaz Tāriq Ibn Ziyyād, 2000), 264.
Jacques Le Goff. Histoire et mémoire (Paris: Gallimard, 1988).
 Robert Aspinion. Apprenons le berbère (Rabat Editions Felix Moncho, 1953), 1.
 See Abdellah Bounfour, “La literature amazighe: Entre l’oral et l’ecrit,” in La littérature amazighe: oralité et écriture, specificités et perspectives, Aziz Kich (ed.), pp.35-58 (Rabat : IRCAM, 2005).
 Michel Vieuchange. Smara: Carnets de route d’un fou du desert (France : LIBRETTO, 2013). There is no relationship between the French title and the English title of the book. The French emphasizes ma love of the desert whereas the English title—Smara: The Forbidden City—focuses on dangers of the deserts.
 Harry Stroomer, “Les tresors litteraires du Sud marocain,” in La littérature amazighe: oralité et écriture, specificités et perspectives, ed. Aziz Kich (Rabat : IRCAM, 2005), 90.
 Nico van den Boogert has translated and commented on Baḥr al-dumū‘ in his book The Berber Literary Tradition of the Sous; with an Edition and Translation of "the Ocean of Tears" by Muḥammad Awzabl (d. 1749) (Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 1997).
 Stroomer, “Les trésors, ” 91.
 For more detailed information, see IREMAM, ed. Les manuscrits berbères au Maghreb et dans les collections européennes (France :Atelier Perrousseaux, 2007).
 A. de G. Motylinski, “Le manuscript Arabo-Berbere de Zouagha decouvert par M. Rebillet, notice sommaire et extraits,” in Actes du XIVe Congrès international des orientalistes, Alger, 1905. Partie 2 (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1907), 68.
 See ‘Umar Affā, “Tārīkh al-makhṭūṭ al-amāzīghī al-maktūb bi-al-ḥarf al-‘arabī fī minṭaqat sūs,” pp.63-74 and Muḥammad Hammām, “al-Makhṭūṭāt al-amāzīghiyya fī Urūppā : Makhṭūṭāt majmū‘at Aresene Roux bi-Aix-en-Provence,” pp. 105-111, and Harry Stroomer, “La tradition des manuscrits berberes en tachelhiyt,” pp. 17-31 in Muḥammad Hammām (ed.). al-Makhṭūṭ al-amāzīghī : Ahammiyyatuhu wa majālātuhu (Rabat : IRCAM, 2004). (Boogert, Stroomer)
 See Paulette Galand-Pernet. Littératures berbères : Des voix, des lettres (Paris : Presses Universitaires de France, 1998) and Daniela Merolla. De l’art de la narration tamazight (berbère) 200 ans d’études : États des lieux et perspectives (Paris/Louvain : Éditions PEETERS, 2006).
 Kich, La littérature amazighe, 14.
Muḥammad Ūfqīr and Aḥmad Munādī, eds. Bībliyūghrāfīyā al-ibdāʻ al-adabī al-Amāzīghī bi-al-Maghrib (1968-2010 M) (Rabat: IRCAM, 2012).
 Mohand Akli Haddou. Introduction à la littérature berbère suivi d’une Introduction à la littérature Kabyle (Algier: Haut-Commissariat à l’Amazighité, 2009) ; Mohammed Chafik. Lamḥa min thalāthīn qarnan min tārīkh al-amāzīghiyyīn (Rabat : Dār al-Kalām lil-Nashr wa-al-Tawzīʻ, 1989).
 Roger Allen. An Introduction to Arabic Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 2.
 Abdellah Derkaoui, “Maẓāhir al-thaqāfa al-sha‘biyya fī a‘māl Muḥammad al-Mukhtār al-Sūsi,” in al-Thaqāfa al-sha‘biyya bayna al-maḥallī wa-al-waṭanī (Rabat: Manshūrāt ‘Ukāz, 1988), 149. Al-Sūsi cites a saying that says “yān ur dār llīn ladab mayḥl ightn urūn mind fūlkinīn” [He who does not possess polite manners doesn’t deserve to be looked at even if they were born to noble people].
 Bruce Maddy-Weitzman. The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States (Austin: Texas University Press, 2011), 42.
 Salem Chaker, “Documents sur les précurseurs. Deux instituteurs kabyles : A. S. Boulifa et M. S. Lechani,” Revue de l'Occident musulman et de la Méditerranée, no 44 (1987), pp. 97-115.
 Haddou, Introduction à la littérature berbère, 11.
 Salem Chaker has underlined the fact that Algerian Amazigh intellectuals were mostly francophone.See Chaker. La langue berbère: recueil de textes (Ebook), 128.
 Brahim Akhiyat. Al-Nadhḍa al-amāzīghiyya ( Rabat: Maṭba ‘at al-Ma ‘ārif al-Jadīda, 2012), 50.
 The proceedings of this conference were published in al-Thaqāfa al-sha‘biyya bayna al-maḥallī wa-al-waṭanī (Rabat: Manshūrāt ‘Ukāz, 1988).
 Omar Amarir. al-Shi‘r al-amāzīghī al-mansūb ilā sīdī ḥammu (Casablanca: Kulliyat al-Adāb wa-al-‘Ulūm al-Insāniyya, 1989).
 Mouloud Mammeri’s « introduction » to Les isfera: Poèmes de Si Mohand-ou-Mhand (Paris : Maspero, 1969).
 One of the earliest translations of Sidi Hammou’s poetry was published in England by R. L. N. Johnson under the title The Songs of Sidi Hammou (London : E. Mathews, 1907); C. E. Andrews also translated several of his poems for Volume 21 of Asia: Journal of the American Asiatic Association in 1921.
An earliest and not well-done book was written about her by François Reyniers. Taougrat ou Les Berbères racontés par eux-mêmes (Paris:Libr. Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1930).
 I am referring to Henri Basset and his negative judgement of much of Amazigh literature in his fundamental book Essai sur la littérature des Berbères (Algiers: Jules CARBONEL, 1920).
 Since the contribution contains the titles, I refrain from repeating them here.
 Basset, Essai, 64.
 Frédérique Devaux Yahi records that the birth of Algerian Kabyle cinema preceded its Moroccan counterpart by eight years. See: De la naissance du cinéma kabyle : au cinéma amazigh (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2018)
 Cynthia Becker. Amazigh Arts in Morocco: Women Shaping Berber Identity (Austin: Texas University Press, 2006).