The Berber community in Morocco are celebrating Amazigh New Year which showcases their food, local music and dance.
“People are celebrating by preparing couscous. They used to put couscous on top of tents in the middle Atlas. If the grains of couscous are dispersed, they say that some devout people eat it and the year will be good,” Benaceur Azaday, an academic said.
Contrary to the Christian and Islamic calendar, the Amazigh feast has no religious connotation . Considered as the first inhabitants of Morocco, they have a rich cultural and artistic heritage which they are proud of.
We are happy with what we achieved for the Amazighs but we are asking for more. we want our language to benefit from the same rights Arabic has because it is an official language and we also insist that the 13th of January be made a national public holiday
The berbers sing and dance “Ahwach” and “Ahidous” to celebrate the New Year. They consider this art left to them by ancestors as god sent. They feel it is important to preserve it.
“The Amazighen s are considered as people of co-habitation, solidarity and fraternity. They are always optimistic, including in their weddings. They have plenty of traditions and customs. For example, on this occasion, they gather between friends and families and the bride joins her groom. They paint her with henna and there is a confirmation of the union,” tribesman Haddou Ouzhour said.
The Berbers in recent years have succeeded to have their language and culture recognised in the new constitution but they are pushing for the new year event to be made a public holiday.
“We are happy with what we achieved for the Amazighs but we are asking for more. We want our language to benefit from the same rights Arabic has because it is an official language and we also insist that the 13th of January be made a national public holiday”. The chairman of the addour association said.
According to some berbers, the Amazigh culture and language were marginalised and reduced to mere folklore in the past in North Africa. The situation is becoming different.
In the early 2000s, a Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture was set up in Rabat and Tamazight instruction was introduced in primary schools. Also, an Amazigh television channel was launched in 2006.
The berber community was particularly pleased with the recognition of their culture and language in the 2011 Moroccan Constitution.
Now, they are urging for the Amazigh new year to be made a national public holiday.
More festivities are planned over the next few days in various parts of Morocco where there is a concentration of Berbers.