Amazigh Tales…

Monday… I am leaving the house so this is brief….

On The Menu

The Links

The Quotes

Amazigh (Berber) Music

A Tale of Seven Brothers

The Other Intifada – Poetry Of The Amazigh Women


The Links:

Study Explains Why Psychedelic Drugs Produce Different Neurological Effects

Cosmic Calendar: Spaceshapes – triangle and pinwheel

Archaeology trumps oil, gas

Poll shows most Britons want Blair to resign now</a


The Quotes:

“The denunciation of the young is a necessary part of the hygiene of older people, and greatly assists in the circulation of their blood.”

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep insights can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

“I never know how much of what I say is true.”

“Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works.’ And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying.”

“Idealism is what precedes experience; cynicism is what follows.”

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”



A Tale of Seven Brothers

By Mustapha Baztout

Almond and Olive

Olive trees and almond trees, beloved of the Berber people, grew all around grandmother’s house. The almond blossom gave pleasure to the eye, and perfumed the evening air. And the olives – well, there was the dark beauty of the trees, but so much more besides.

The hard, dramatically grained wood of the olive tree can be used for everything from salad spoons to roof-struts, and grandmother’s house was thatched with brush from olive branches. Olives and olive oil played a large part in the meals she cooked; and the fire we so often gathered around in the evenings was fuelled by olive wood. Do you like baked potatoes? If you do, you’d have loved the ones we used to cook in the embers of that fragrant fire. And when the fire was cold and spent, those olives still hadn’t gone beyond usefulness. Grandmother said the ashes of an olive fire, rubbed into the scalp, are an effective preventative for dandruff!

So as the evening draws on, imagine yourself breathing in the almond-scented air, praise the powers that be for all the gifts of the almond and the olive, and take your place in the family circle to hear another of grandmother’s stories…

A Tale of Seven Brothers

Once upon a time there was a girl called Aicha who lived with her father and her stepmother in a little village in North Africa. She grew up as most girls do, playing with the other children of the village, but she was called a daddy’s girl because she spent as much time as she could with her father. Perhaps this was because Aicha’s mother had died when she was very young, or perhaps it was because Aicha’s step-mother had a daughter of her own, and looked coldly on Aicha.

As time went on Aicha’s stepmother began to notice that Aicha claimed a lot of her father’s attention. She got jealous on behalf of her own daughter, and began thinking how she might get rid of Aicha. One day when she was tidying up their little house her glance fell upon a ball of string and an idea came to her. She slipped the string into her pocket and called to Aicha.

“Come child,” she said. “Leave your father in peace. You and I are going for a walk.”

Aicha followed her stepmother obediently and soon they were making their way up a mountain path. Aicha’s stepmother handed her the end of the string, saying, “You hold onto this and I’ll hold the ball, then you won’t get lost.”

They crossed the river that ran into their valley, and walked through the dark forest that grew round the mountain’s knees.

“Where are we going?” said Aicha.

“You’ll see,” said her stepmother, and went on climbing.

Onwards and upwards they went until at last they reached the top of the mountain, where they stopped to gaze at the tiny houses and people in the valley far below. Suddenly Aicha saw her stepmother’s ball of string bouncing away from her and rolling down the mountainside.

“Stupid girl!” said her stepmother. “You pulled on the string and made me drop the ball. Now just you go and fetch it back.”

Aicha didn’t remember pulling on the string but being a dutiful girl, she handed the end of the string to her stepmother and ran off down the mountainside after the bouncing ball. Soon she ran into the dark forest. Keeping her eye on the string that would lead her to the lost ball, she soon came out of the other side of the forest, and saw the string disappearing into the river. Without stopping she waded in, following the string through the water, out the other side, and on down the mountain.

At last she came to the end of the string – and found no ball to take back to her stepmother. She walked back up to the river and down the mountainside again, looking under every bush and behind every rock, but she couldn’t find the ball. Eventually she gave up and decided to follow the string back to her stepmother. But she had wandered a long way in search of the ball, and now she couldn’t find the string, either.

Nor could she find the mountain path. She looked around at strange hills and strange valleys. She was in a place she had never seen before and she didn’t know her way home.

Her stepmother on the other hand, knew her way home very well. As soon as she’d seen Aicha wade into the river she had reeled in her string, rolling it into a ball once more. Then with a satisfied smile, she had turned away from her unwanted stepdaughter and headed back to the village.


Up on the mountainside, far from home, Aicha watched the evening sun going down and wondered where she was going to spend the night. Looking around, she spotted a wisp of smoke rising in the distance and headed towards it. As darkness fell she came upon a pleasant little house with sweet wood-smoke rising from its chimney. She could hear someone moving about in the house. She wanted to show herself but she was frightened, so she let herself in quietly and hid in the animals’ feed-store at the back of the house.

Presently there was a commotion of talking and laughter outside. Aicha poked her head out of her hiding place and saw six young men striding towards the house. As she watched, a seventh – the one she had heard moving around inside – came out to greet them. Aicha thought they seemed like a happy, friendly band of brothers. It appeared that one had stayed home to keep house and prepare supper whilst the others had been out hunting. As the brothers bustled into the kitchen and settled down to their supper, Aicha felt hungry and lonely and wished she could join them in the warm, bright kitchen. But caution led her to stay hidden.

The next morning six brothers set off at sunrise to go about their daily business. Aicha noticed that today a different one took a turn staying home to keep house. Aicha watched him until he went outside to tend the garden and water the fruit trees. As soon as he did so, Aicha crept into the kitchen, aiming to earn her dinner. Glancing regularly out of the window to check that the young man was still busy amongst his trees, Aicha cleaned up the kitchen, laid the table and cooked supper. Then, feeling it would now be fair to take some food for herself, she crept back to her hiding place clutching a bowl of stew in one hand and a piece of bread in the other. As she quietly ate her meal the young man came in from his gardening, thinking it was time to clean up the kitchen and prepare supper.

“What magic is this?” he cried, when he walked into a clean and tidy kitchen and saw the supper bubbling away on the stove!

Soon his tired and hungry brothers trooped back into the kitchen. He sat down with them, wondering how to tell them about the strange events of the day, but before he could find the words one of his brothers exclaimed: “This stew is delicious. You’re a better cook that I knew, brother!”

Another agreed, and added: “And the table is so clean I thought it was a new one.”

“And the windows have never been so clean!” added a third.

Another commented on the dish of flowers that decorated the table, another on the sweet strewing-herbs on the floor. By now the guilty brother had his mouth full and was enjoying his dinner and the praise and so somehow, he said nothing.

The same thing happened the next day, and the next, until all the brothers had a guilty secret. Then at last, walking home on a beautiful, fragrant evening, the first brother who had experienced the ‘strange magic’ could keep silent no more.

“But the same thing happened to me!” said his next brother when he’d heard the confession.

“And to me!” said the next.

So when they got home that night they searched the house for their mysterious helper. But Aicha was quick and clever, so that wherever the brothers searched, she was always somewhere else. At last the young men gave up and sat down to their supper – a particularly delicious couscous that Aicha had made, served up with dishes of olives and salad from their garden. As they commented on the tasty food, Aicha crept into the doorway to listen and find out what they thought of her.

“If our helper’s a girl, she will be our beloved sister,” said one.

“And if he is a boy, he will be our most esteemed brother,” said another.

And so at last Aicha decided it was safe to show herself. The brothers greeted her with delight and made a fuss of her, and told her she should live with them as long as she liked and have the best share of all that they had.


Life went on happily enough. The brothers were as good as their word – Aicha had the best share of everything and was allowed to do as she liked. Only one rule did the brothers impose on her, and that was little enough trouble to her. They had a big tabby cat who lived in front of the kitchen fire, and no-one was allowed to disturb that cat.

As the brothers left the house on the first day after Aicha had shown herself, the youngest had turned to her and said, “The cat has a dry broad bean somewhere, that she likes to play with, so be careful when you are sweeping up. See that you don’t touch it.”

Aicha had no objection to letting the cat keep her toy. She went about her business every day, keeping house, working in the garden, preparing supper. But one day when she was sweeping the floor, she was a bit annoyed because the cat had left her toy in the middle of the floor and gone off to sit in the sunshine.

“Come here and collect your broad bean!” called Aicha.

But the cat was busy washing herself and wasn’t interested.

Aicha called her again, so the cat looked up with heavy lidded green eyes and she said, “I’m busy. I don’t want my toy any more.”

So Aicha shrugged her shoulders and carried on sweeping. Soon the cat’s dry broad bean was in the fireplace along with all the dust and rubbish Aicha had collected up. That was all very well until the cat had finished cleaning herself and came into the kitchen looking for new amusement. She looked all around for her toy and couldn’t find it, so she called to Aicha: “Where is my dry broad bean?”

“It’s in the fire,” Aicha replied. “You said you didn’t want it any more.”

“I want it now,” yowled the cat. “Give me my toy, or I’ll wee on the fire!”

“Never mind,” said Aicha. “I’ll find you another toy.”

“Naaao, I want my dry broad bean!” yowled the cat, and she refused even to look at the piece of wool Aicha offered her, or the twist of straw, or even the bunch of catnip.

“I want my dry broad bean!” she yowled.

And when Aicha shrugged her shoulders and turned away, that angry cat weed on the fire.

“Oh you silly cat!” cried Aicha. “Now I will have to go out and beg an ember from someone so I can restart the fire for supper!”

“That’s okay,” said the cat, who was happy now, playing with her rescued broad bean.

Aicha sighed and shook her head then she cleaned out the fireplace, laid a new fire, and then set out to find someone who might offer her an ember to re-light it.


The Other Intifada – Poetry Of The Amazigh Women

(Photos are not of the Poets…)

At first glance, Nanna Ferroudja appears the typical grandmother from the mountains of Kabylia, dressed in the traditional taqendurt n leqbayel (Kabyle dress) and fuda (skirt apron), monolingual in Takbaylit (the regional Tamazight of Kabylia), with no formal schooling, and unable to read or write. But Nanna Ferroudja is more than the caretaker of her grandchildren, the keeper of her hearth. She is a poetess and a die-hard Amazigh militant.

Nanna Faroudja’s face is lined with the sorrows and trials of her 67 years of life. Much of her sorrows and experiences have been verbalized in her poetry. Her lyrics address various topics, including: the current crisis in Kabylia, emigration from Kabylia, family issues, and the Algerian war against the French. She started creating poems at age 24, at the death of her brother during the war. The tragedies of war and oppression, the struggle for freedom and Amazigh recognition has been the source of her inspiration.

Since the recent events emanating from Kabylia began in April of this year, her poems, which are a release of her griefs and fury, have flowed more quickly. When the uprising started, she was abroad, helping to care for a newborn grandchild. This did not stop her, however, from participating in all the demonstrations in support of the people of Kabylia, which were held in the surrounding cities of her host country. She surprised the participants with the elocution of her spontaneously-created poetry, becoming a symbol and an inspiration for the area’s Amazigh diaspora.

Please note that these translations are not literal. They are interpretations of the text in order to preserve the structure of the poems while faithfully conveying the meaning behind the words to a different culture, represented by the language of translation. Nanna Ferroudja was consulted throughout the translation processs. The poems have been transcribed by Karim Achab, Amazigh scholar and linguist. The English translations are the joint effort of K. Achab and Blanca Madani.

Ayen yedran di tmura

(What happened in Kabylia)

The heart cries, the soul is wounded

Because of what happened in Kabylia

Many youth were killed

Their lives yet unfulfilled

They gave their lives for Tamazight

That’s about honor, not robbery

Let’s agree to unite

As we did against the French

A million-and-a-half dead

Yet freedom has not come

CSnatched by the undeserving

Such dishonor, but do they care?

Today things have grown clear

Algeria is scorned by foreign lands

You who are bright, awaken!

Come, free us

That we may live in dignity.



My heart cries impatiently

Oh, my brethren, we are a disgrace

We have known nothing each day but war

Many youth have died

More bloodshed than the raging waters of a torrent

They all died for Tamazight

Which the others long tried to conceal

My brethren, do not surrender!

With valor, we will overcome!

Blessings on the martyrs

Their names inscribed in History

Luckily, the saviors were not all gone

They unearthed it, Tamazight

Its brilliance will finally sparkle

My brethren, do not retreat

The bloodshed must be honored with our freedom.

Nanna Ferroudja, having suffered through the miscarriage of her first child, her only boy, eventually bore and raised three healthy girls. In 1985, when her youngest was still a teenager, she lost her husband, with whom she’d shared her life for 28 years. Then, eleven years later, she suffered the pain of separation when her youngest daughter, who had been her only constant companion since her older daughters had married, left with her new husband to North America.


(In exile)

ADiscretely, I cry,

Cries, Oh Brethren, no one hears

I left it behind

The country where I was raised

Like birds, we flew

To the lands of others

We left our families, tearful

Separated; there was no other choice

I took a seat in a machine

Flying so high in the sky

My feet touched the land of Canada

Where I found folks, so kind

I looked for people from Kabylia

To unite our goals and strength

When we call our mothers

It is but a voice through the wire

Mothers be patient, don’t worry

We will return one day.

Tafsut Imazigen di Kanada

(Amazigh Spring in Canada)

$It is about Canada

A country inundated in snow

It drained Kabylia of its brains

And left the villages desolate

Families were left behind lamenting

What torture, this heart broken in pieces

KBe grateful to them, oh, Canada

Honor the immigrants with respect

This is the Day of Tamazight

Future generations will know It

Greetings to the immigrants

To each and every one.

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