18 January 2013

North Africa: Maghreb Marks Amazigh New Year 2963

Tunis — For citizens across the Maghreb region, Yennayer is an occasion to show pride in the Amazigh identity.

Festivities for Yennayer kicked off across the Maghreb on Saturday (January 12th).

Also known as "Amenzu n'Yennayer" or "Tabburt u Seggas" (door of the year), the Amazigh New Year remains one of North Africa's most popular festivals.

Its various populations celebrate the day, which coincides with January 12th on the Gregorian calendar. On the eve of Yennayer, families prepare a special dinner.

In Algeria, many cities and villages hold events. The High Commission for Amazigh (HCA) each year selects one site for the country's official celebrations.

For Amazigh New Year 2963, Timimoun was chosen as the host city.

The choice of Timimoun was no coincidence. The Adrar oasis town has great symbolic significance in Amazigh culture.

In the Kabylie region, where the Amazigh New Year is taken as a public holiday, celebrations kicked off last Thursday.

Morocco also marked the occasion with a cultural and artistic event in Tiznit. Organised by the Taïri N'wakal Association, the New Year festivities included poetry readings and a concert of Amazighi music.

A few years ago, Morocco granted a request from its citizens to make Yennayer a national festival.

In Algeria, despite the fact that Tamazight has been recognized as a national language for over a decade, Yennayer is still not an official celebration.

In Libya, the first day of the Amazigh New Year was a public holiday in the Libyan Amazigh towns of Jadu, Nalut, Yefren and Zwara and in Tripoli suburbs with large Amazigh communities, such as Janzour.

Libyan General National Congress (GNC) chief Mohamed Magarief on Saturday spoke at the Constitutional Rights Forum for the Amazigh of Libya. Culture Minister Habib Mohammed Al-Amin, other government officials and representatives of the diplomatic missions in the country also attended the event.

"There is a consensus among us that the new constitution should express and represent all Libyans across the spectrum, express their aspirations and hopes, win their approval and realise their interests," Magarief said at the forum.

Under the Moamer Kadhafi regime, Amazighs did not celebrate Yennayer in public and did not give their children Amazigh names.

The slain Libyan dictator had also banned Amazighs from studying their language.

"The integration of the Amazigh language in the constitution is only recovery of a right that has been stolen from us for 50 years and more," Kabao resident Youssef al-Kabawi told Magharebia.

In Tunisia, Amazigh citizens offered warm greetings of "Asukas Ombarki Amazigh".

"The celebration of the Amazigh New Year is an occasion to deepen the spirit of belonging to North Africa and pride in Amazigh identity, which will strengthen the values of citizenship, democracy and the sense of responsibility," Ikram Toumi told Magharebia.

"Recognising others is not derogatory to one's identity or patriotism. It enriches the history of Tunisia and the feeling of belonging to humanity," Ali Zaghbeni said.

"Some view the observance of the Amazigh New Year as sedition. This is wrong. Tunisia is for everyone," he added.

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