Posted on 06 July 2017
The following is an introduction to the name behind every single article we have in our collection this year. At The Hidden Tribe we are of the opinion that the history of the tribes is a sine qua non pilar for building an ethical and sustainable business model that brings to the world unique products while empowering and giving a front seat to the makers and their stories.
As most of us, you may have never heard the word "Amazigh", although we are sure you've heard the word "Berber". Owning to our ambition to revive and empower the tribal artistry, this is the only post where we will be making use of the term "Berber" in view of the pejorative way it resonates with the Amazigh population of Northern Africa.
According to many scholars, the word Berber is a derivative from the Latin word Barbarus which was used by the Romans and Byzantines to describe uncivilized people. The use of such an appellation was influenced by the Amazigh's resistance to the Roman Empire moving south so they can escape the Roman emipre's established power zones.
Later on, it was educationally, socially, and politically further implemented by the Arab and French occupiers around the 7th and 19th century respectively, and it's still in use till today though it's facing some serious resistance from the Amazigh community.
The word Amazigh on the other hand is believed to be the appropriate appellation for the indigenous tribes of Northern Africa. The ancient Egyptians have known the Amazigh tribes living in Lybia by the name Meshwesh. (The Egyptians used to switch the Z and the gha into the sound Sh). The first Imazighen tribe to get in touch with the Egyptian was a Lybian Amazigh tribe, that's why you would find historical documents calling the Amazigh Lybian tribes. By Lybian, Egyptians referred to the population of the area contained between the Atlantic Ocean far west and the Nile to the East.
Other Greek historians such as Hekataois and Herodotos and Latin historians listed the Amazigh tribes as Mazyes, Maxyes, and Mazax respectively.
The most common and mainstream definition of the word Amazigh is "Free man", but the fact that it doesn't lean on a solid etymological analysis we are more inclined toward the definition bellow.
Amazigh comes from the word Tamzgha (Fem.) or amzgha (Mas.) and can be divided into 3 parts: (am/tam,az,gha/ra).
"Am" means "He who is", "Tam" means "She who is".
"Az" means near
"Ra" is the ancient Egyptian God of the solar disc.
Thus, the meaning of Tamazgha would be the land that's near the God of the sun Ra, the land where the sun sets.
The name given to the Northern African countries by the Muslim empire is "Belad Al Maghreb/The land of the sitting sun", which is a literal translation of the word Tamazgha leaving out Ra, the pagan God of the sun. Also the name Latin name given to the area was "Maurusia" which is believed to be a derivative of the Greek word "Maurso" that translates into "getting dark", the natural phenomenon of sunset.
The aforesaid definition sheds a light on several aspects of the Amazigh wearable symbology where the sun is a preeminent element of the garments' and jewelry's decoration and shape.
This correlation is more palpable on women's garments and accessories converting the female's body into a sacred passage between nature's abundance and woman's fertility.