berber culture

Amazigh girls during the festival of roses

Location: El-Kelaâ M’Gouna, Morocco

Photographer: Jacques Bravo

In the dry folds of the High Atlas mountains, approaching the Sahara, there’s an unexpected place called the Vallée des Roses where, in spring, the entire area is awash with pink Persian roses. In the small town of El-Kelaâ M’Gouna, roses nestle among hedgerows so that they’re not immediately visible, but they are the town’s lifeblood, from their cultivation through to the production of rosewater. The flowers are harvested in mid-May, an event celebrated in the colourful and sweet-smelling Rose Festival, which draws around 20,000 people to the small town. The three-day festival is a time of song and dance, feasting, souk-like markets and a chariot procession through a shower of rose petals. There’s also a beauty pageant of sorts, with a Miss Rose crowned each year.

Algeria. The Shawia people, or Chaouis (شاويه) are a Berber people who live mainly in the Aurès, Nememcha, and Belezma regions surrounded by the Aurès Mountains, a large part of eastern Algeria known in ancient times as Numidia. They call themselves Išawiyen Icawiyen and speak Shawiya. Historically, the Aurès Mountains served as a refuge for Berber peoples, forming a base of resistance against the Roman Empire, Vandals, the Byzantine Empire, and the Arabs. Aurès was also a district that existed during and after the Algerian War from 1954-1962. It was in this region that Berber freedom fighters started the war.

The patriarch of Berbers is believed to be Madghacen, common ancestor of the Zenata and the Botri. Ibn Khaldun identified the Zenata as Berbers. Modern historians rank this region within the group of Numidians and Gaetuli or the much more ancient such as Meshwesh, Maesulians, and Mazaxes, from whom formed the Zenata, main inhabitants of the Aurès in the Middle Ages. Chaoui clans known by Ibn Khaldoun were the Ifren, Maghrawa, Djerawa, Abdalwadides, Howara and Awarba. The term Chaoui/Shawi derives from the word “horn”, allegedly a reference to the national god of the Numidians, Amun, who is depicted as a human head with the horns of a ram. After the independence of Algeria, the Chaouis remained localized mainly in the Auresian region. They represent the 1st ethnic group in Algeria and 2nd Berber-speaking group, first being the Kabyle. Shawiya Berbers are defined as Nordic since 1939. The mountain agriculturalists are best represented by 2 groups: Shawia and Kabyles. Both are noted for their European-like features and fair skin; blondism of a high order is frequently attributed to them in the non-statistical literature. The notable fact about the Shawia is that, in a metrical sense, they are identical with northwestern European Nordics. One could substitute the means of the Shawia sample of Randall-MacIver and Wilkin for those of a characteristic eastern Norwegian province without serious discrepancy. The Nordic presence in northern Africa is ancient as the Egyptian monuments of the Middle Kingdom, and perhaps older. They survive today mostly in the Aures mountains of Algeria, the mountains of the Rif and the Djurdjura; others are found in the Canary Islands. 

Chaoui music is a specific style of Northern Africa. The Shawia dance is called Rahaba; men and women dancing at weddings. There are many 20th century singers, such as Aïssa Djermouni, Ali Khencheli, Massinissa, Ishem Boumaraf, Djamel Sabri, Houria Aïchi, etc. Chaoui painters and sculptors include Cherif Merzouki, Abdelkhader Houamel, Hassane Amraoui, Adel Abdessemed, and Mohamed Demagh. The Fantasia is a traditional exhibition of horsemanship in the Aurès performed during cultural festivals.

  • Hafsa bint al Hajj the greatest poetess(1135-1190)

She was Born in Granada(Spain) and died In Marrakech (Morocco), she is the most famous poetess of Al-andalus , daughter of a Berber(1) father, a very rich and influential man in Granada.

  1. Contextualization

    She was born in a fragile political context, indeed the Moroccan movement Almohade(2) had led to the fall of the Almoravids, Abd Al Moumen chief  of the clan of the Hintata (still living in Morocco) proclaimed himself Calife of Al Andalus and Maghreb, he rejects the caliphate of the Abbassids.

Notwithstanding the political change, Hafsa was appreciated for his incredible talent as a poet and for his great beauty at the court of the Almohades of Granada.

2. In the Almohad court

Then she was sent to Rabat(3) in Morocco, in front of the caliph Abd Al Moumen, who gave him a literary salon (Rakuna in Arabic), from there she was nicknamed “Al-Rukaniya”.
It is in this atmosphere of courtesy and poetry that she knew the poet of Granada, Abu Jafar Ibn Said, of the illustrious line of Banu Said, with whom she began a public relationship in the year 1154. This relationship This gave rise to an intense exchange of poems between the two lovers, who have been preserved to this day.

Hafsa Bint al-Hajj, many years (in 1191) was later invited by the Caliph Abu Yussuf Yaqub al-Mansur (grandson of Abd al Moumen) in Marrakech to lead the education of the Almohad princes. She  spend her last years in Marrakech.

(1)Inhabitants of North Africa

(2)this religious mouvement was born in Morocco(anti atlas area), founded by Berbere from Masmouda tribe and his follower Abd Al Moumen

(3)Rabat is the capital of Morocco since Alawite dynasty(1666)

Imilchil, Morocco. The town is a symbol of Amazigh/Berber culture, known for its Marriage Festival (Souk Aamor Agdoud N'Oulmghenni). Legend has it that 2 young people from different tribes fell in love, but their families did not allow them to see each other. The grief led them to cry themselves to death, creating the lakes Isli (his) and Tislit (hers). The families decided to establish a day on the anniversary of their death when members of local tribes could marry each other. Thus the marriage festival was born. In reality, the region has many tiny villages. When a young person needs to find a partner, they cannot simply go and look for one, due to conservative social norms. So the festival allows for fathers to show their daughters and find husbands for them. When a woman accepts a man’s proposal, she says “You have captured my liver” (Tq massa n uchemt). Up to 40 couples take their vows on the same day. The festival is rich with music, dancing, feasts, and colorful clothing.

This was just going to be a culture practice but then ended up being Tolkien related? I was reminiscing about my trip to Morocco and then was itching to draw a new female dwarf concept! So here, have a blend of Berber culture (Their inkings+ cloth style) and my attempt at dwarven clothes.
 I can’t really say from where these two are from except from the far east and that they are part of the Blacklock clan due to their position in Middle Earth and their black hair (though I was playing around with it so it came out purple black which looks pretty epic!). Here is what I have so far:

-Abla (the one on the left) is a Silversmith and Isra (the one of the right) is a cloth seller as well as a from time to time street performer.
-They are twins (rarity). They look exactly the same except for styling of their braids, their eye colour and their inkings.
-They dress the same to confuse people (it is the safest way to travel and not to mention fun!)
Abla means and “Woman with a full Figure”
Isra means “Night Journey”

Textures used:……

I would definitely encourage you to look at all the Berber gorgeous culture! Here is what inspired me besides my trip.………


Algerian Fashion History

Algeria’s distinct and very ornate sense of style comes from its influence by Berber and Arab cultures. 

Algerian men can be seen in the traditional burous (a cape that is sometimes draped over the shoulders). Women wore clothing that reflected Muslim law witch included the blousa as pictured below. Both articles of clothing were embroidered with threads of silver and gold depending on the wealth of the wearer.