Tripoli — After decades of restrictions, Libyans can now recognise and celebrate their diversity.
The Libyan Amazigh stronghold of Jadu held a cultural festival in November to celebrate the richness and beauty of its culture, as well as the country's diversity.
The event, which ran November 7th through November 9th in the Nafusa mountain town, made it clear that for the Amazighi community, today's Libya is a very different place.
During the Moamer Kadhafi regime, Amazigh cultural events and the Tamazight language were banned. In Amazigh towns, only Arabic could be used in schools and government offices.
"We support and encourage such educational and constructive activities," National Congress leader Mohamed Magarief said at the festival. "They have a strong and effective role in strengthening social peace and in linking various cultures and integrating them within Libya."
"Amazigh are our people, our loved ones and the possessors of a deeply rooted history I am proud of them as well as all Libyans," he added. "No one should refuse them the right to express their own culture within the framework of a unified nation. Diversity is a source of wealth and enriches our lives with beauty. We should not consider it a source of discord, difference and conflict."
Tariq Alrowaymidh, the brain behind the festival, said that most attendees were from non-Amazigh areas. "These people are eager to learn about this culture. This is also evidence of Libyans' openness," he said.
"This festival will give Libyans the opportunity to discover their diverse and multiple cultures. It is evidence of the richness of this nation and not a defect or a shortcoming," Alrowaymidh added.
Jadu is home to a historical museum on the history of Amazigh culture and daily life. During the festival, a number of seminars and workshops highlighting Amazigh culture were held. In addition, activities included exhibitions, graphic art, fashion shows, and music.
"It is wonderful to see Amazigh culture exhibited in Libya. We hope that there will be also interest in Jebel Nafusa and its population," Jadu resident Miloud Alawi said. "We also hope that work will continue to disseminate Amazigh culture because it is part of Libya's culture."
"This festival reflects Amazigh culture and arts. It presents a symbiotic image of Amazigh culture through theatre, art, music and even eating traditions. Experiences like these are increasing and strengthening national cohesion," Rahibat resident Abdullah Ahamasi said of the festival.
Abdul Munim al-Mansouri from the Amazigh of the coastal city of Zuwara said, "There were some differences in the Tamazight accent due to lack of mixing between the Amazigh people, but we understand each other."
"The festival was great and very successful. It explained to Libyans and others the Amazigh culture and we wish the festival more success until it becomes an international event," Yafran resident Radwan Ammar remarked.