During the early 1970s, a kind of cultural euphoria proliferated amongst Berberists and cultural activists to revive their undocumented culture, and in doing so they mistook and stumbled along the way, littering literature with errors and mistakes. Naturally, due to the long-range negligence and persecution of their culture and identity itself, such results are expected and can be accommodated. But the point forward is to look back, reflect, and focus on the long road ahead. Most people seem to excel in being negatively critical, but what the Berbers need right now is a positive helping hand.
They invented new words to replace what they thought were foreign words in Berber, and added new ones altogether, based on other Berber roots; and these were published in a small dictionary called Amawal (Amawal “lexique”, Berber-French, French Berber Dictionary, Imedyazen, Paris, 1980). These invented words have now entered literary works and song, where they are widely used by Berber writers, activists, poets and singers, through whom they further spread among the recent generations of the Berber populations of North Africa. Initially this material was barred by the Arab governments, but with the recent advent of internet technologies despots had finally gave up the job. This is not bad news (if you knew), but scientific analysis and proper study of language may become affected at some point, and even infected, where one cannot distinguish between original and new hypothetical inventions. The custom amongst the linguistic communities is to place an asterisk ( * ) before invented words, but some excited Berberists declared themselves stars of their own.
These pioneers were alone, exploring the mysterious Sahara in darkness, guided only by its night stars, while having to evade prison and certain death at home; and for that we must remember them for all their brilliant mistakes. Clarifying the issue will hopefully aid future Berberists to correct the path, build the momentum required, and gather the funds and support needed to establish a unified Berber curriculum, all inclusive and democratically built by the Imazighen themselves, and not by others who claim to be their friends only to obfuscate their true identity and effect conflict(s).
It is good news to see language grow with new words to enrich its prehistoric vocabulary; that is healthy. But we must pay attention to details and make sure we preserve the language handed down to us as it is, and then supplement the new material on top. My brothers and sisters you have been reminded that there is always the exciting and attractive possibility that those discarded Berber words thought of as being Arabic or Latin may well turn out to be original Tamazight words. Patience and pursuit of knowledge are the keys others won’t let you have.
Worse still, the activists had even tampered with the ancient and most sacred Tifinagh letters (the ancient Libyan Alphabet), like when they joined the two vertical strokes of letter L, and the two braces of letter F. Adding new ones to cover those sounds that are not covered by the original script is okay as long as they are professionally inspected and documented. The improvised Tifinagh system contains 55 letters, 22 of which were new additions. But to alter existing ones, for whatever reason including convenience, is a flagrant disrespect for the sacred nature of Tifinagh script, Berberists ought to respect. For a particular, local, foreign-funded group to impose their invented system(s) on the native Berbers as a whole, without any scientific enquiry or consultation with the people, is something some Libyans and the Kabyles refused to buy.
This kind of confusion is very symptomatic and characteristic of the early Berber cultural and political movements; ultimately leading to quality and accuracy being the first casualties of freedom. On the other hand there were martyrs who fell to assassination as victims of their own daring “truth”. Let us hope that Berber academic institutions and scholars can lead the way forward on firm and common grounds, and eradicate irrationals inherited from persistent persecution and paranormal apparitions. Without a firm political and administrative body overseeing the transition to freedom, based on scientific principles, the Berber revolution could well descend into (perceived) cultural anarchy and political chaos.
Berber Nesmenser; Zuwarah, Libya.
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