Poetry in the Bottom of Kabylia


Poetry is mingled with existence.It portrays the events, it warns,directs and corrects. The poet is the one who goes deeper to discover the world and its values. The creative poet enjoys an evident prestige within the community in which he lives. 

  The kabyle traditional poetry belongs to the Berber and Africain oral tradition.It consists of several genres; the epic poem is called thakssit (story, gesture), the lyrical poem Asfrou (elucidation) and the light piece, sometimes sung, Izli (stream of water). However, the word asfrou tends more and more to designate poetry in general. This evolution corresponds to the use that the epic poets already made of the same word in their exordiums, which sometimes begin with this verse: "A yikhf-iw refd asfrou" ("O my head, make a poem spring").The most famous traditional Kabyle poet is Si Mohand U Mhand, who lived in the nineteenth century.

  The kabylian tales always start with the formula "Machaho!" (Once upon a time).The most famous stories are those of Mohand Uchen (Mohand the Jackal) and Djeha, a cunning character of the North African imagination. The Kabyle tale has been the subject of numerous works of study and synthesis like that of  Mouloud Mammeri.

   The Kabyle oral poetry is inseparable from the popular song, which prolongs and completes it because there is no distinction between song and poetry in the Kabyle oral literature. The Kabyle oral tradition contains many proverbs (inzan).Thus, it is also possible to integrate songs interpreted by the women; they are performed, accompanied by the bendir(tambourines)for great occasions and especially for weddings, during the ceremony of the urar and l’henni. In the following a few names which stand out in kabylia:

  • Youcef  U Qasi who excelled in oratory and faithfully translated the sense of honor which the kabyle peasants have lived for ages.
  • Si Mohand U Mhand is part of the history of the kabyle poetry.His collection of poems involved around exile, courage, faith, decay, friendship, solitude, hope,…
  • Sheikh Mohand U l’Houcine is one of the great names that dominate the kabyle poetry. He composed for a selected and restricted audience, which of its followers.He has left many poems preserved especially by his disciples. Even after his death, the kabylian people always continue to cite his verses, thoughts and actions as references, sometimes as Arguments.
  • Slimane Azem is a prominent and a well-known kabyle poet and singer. He arrived to France and began an early immersion in the torments of exile that’s why his first poem is about emigration. In his making animals speak, the poet transposes the human avatars into the animal world; the message passes with an accomplice facility. Slimane Azem sang the identity, separation, friendship, Kabylia, fidelity, the difficulties of the century, wisdom, luck, misfortune, life, death ...
  • Fadhma Aït Mansour Amrouche: she remains present through the admirable voice of Taous and his anthology of Berber songs of Kabylia. In 1940, cruelly touched by the death of his three sons, Louis, Paul and Noel,she found relief for her trouble by instinctively using the poetic improvisation. It was then that she composed seven poems that her daughter Taous collected from her books and published 25 years later in "The Magic Grain".
  • There are other poets, such as Sheikh Nordine, Mohamed Hilmi,Cherifa, Taleb Rabah, Cherif Kheddam, Ben Mohamed, Lounis Aït Menguellet, Matoub Lounes and Idir. In General, these poets make up essentially songs engaged for the cause of the claim of the Amazigh identity.Today, the demand for identity has crossed the stage of "asefru" and the song that claims the Algerian originality of the Amazigh culture.

   The passage from oral poetry to written Kabyle poetry has made it possible to save from oblivion all the pieces and poems belonging to the illiterate poets mentioned above.

written by ARAB Sabrina

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