INTERVIEW WITH TAFSUT IMAZIGHEN - ALL WOMEN'S KABYLE DANCE GROUP
Interview with Tafsut Imazighen, an all-girls group of Kabyle performers who preserve indigenous Northern Algerian dance.
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Tafsut Imazighen, meaning "Amazigh Spring" is a group of young Algerian women who perform traditional Kabyle dance with a contemporary flair. They speak here about their experience performing for their indigenous community in Brooklyn, about the characteristics of Kabyle dance, and what their family traditions are for Yennayer, the Amazigh (Indigenous) new year. They also give a demonstration of the footwork of traditional Kabyle dance, and how to create the hip isolation seen in their performance. Feet are the key!
Yennayer is the new year for the Imazighen of North Africa (singular Amazigh) , the indigenous ethnic groups spread amongst Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and even Egypt. It is celebrated on the 11th of January every year - and this year (2020) is the 2,970th year for the Imazighen. The young women here talk about how Yennayer is marked as the time when Shoshneq, an Amazigh, became the Pharoah of Egypt.
One prominent community of the Imazighen in Algeria are the Kabyles that are native to Northern Algeria in the areas of Tizi Ouzou, Bejaia, Bouira, etc. With their resilient spirit and isolated mountainous geography, they have preserved their cultural traditions for thousands of years. It is no surprise that Kabyles in the diaspora keep strong ties with their heritage and also have a strong sense of who they are. Kabilya region has a history of repression, discrimination, and censorship from the anti-indigenous Algerian government that denies their language and identity. Identity transmission is a priority however - - youth are taught from a young age to be proud of their culture, traditions, and speak their Kabyle language and learn about their Tifinagh alphabet.
Yennayer celebration and festivities come to Brooklyn on January 18th, 2020 at Murmrr theater in Prospect Heights, a community event run by local Kabyles who aim to bring their community members together during a particularly historic time for Algerians. The Hirak - the revolution against President Bouteflika and his current oppressive regime in Algeria - is a movement of weekly Friday protests where youth, indigenous communities across the country, and women speak out on their political and socio-economic grievances. The organizers of this celebration have publicized that money from the event will be donated to Hirak initiative and the Kabyles in Algeria have been violently imprisoned due to carrying the indigenous flag while protesting.
Although the girls of Tafsut Imazighen did not specify why they chose their name, my personal intuition says it is possible that the name of their group is inspired by the famous first "Amazigh Spring". Many know the "Arab Spring" as when the first time when the word spring was used to mean a time of revolt in Northern Africa. However, the Imazighen in Algeria had their first post-colonial "spring" in March 1980 when the Algerian government banned Mouloud Mammeri, an Amazigh intellectual from presenting a conference on Kabyle poetry- which then led to demonstrations and strikes by the indigenous community.