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2/28/10 Word of the day: aHandir

As I've said before, "Berberville" gets its sobriquet from its standing as the heart of Berber - Imazighn/Amazigh - culture. Of course, there are many flavors of Amazigh culture, just as there are several dialects of the overall Tamazight language: Tarifit, Tamazight, Tashelheit, Tasusit, and whatever crazy blend they speak in Marmoucha (Tamarmouchit?).

But Berberville sits deep, deep in the High Atlas mountains, pretty much at the middle of a blank spot in most maps. It's the biggest village (town?) around, and is home to the Ait Hadidou tribe. There's a wonderful story I'll tell sometime, about our tribe's origins, but the short version is that it's a combination of Ait Brahim and Ait Yaza. Ama is Ait Brahim. Baba is Ait Yaza. Many families, like mine, are a hybrid. Generally speaking, girls keep their mothers' tribe, while boys keep their fathers'. The logical implication is that all of Ait Hadidu are probably genetic mutts, despite people continuing to identify by either Ait Brahim or Ait Yaza.

Women show their tribal affiliation/heritage on their faces, with chin and/or forehead tattoos, as well as on their backs, with traditional capes.

These capes are called aHandir (the big H represents a sound like a sharp exhalation; if you say ah! an deer! you'll be pronouncing it reasonably accurately), but cape is only a half-translation, at best. The word aHandir includes the full sense that these are the traditional, striped, capes, made in precisely the same way and following precisely the tribal design. (Each of the half-dozen tribes in the region has their own traditional aHandir design.)

Here are some performers from this year's summer festival:

The two women in the center are wearing the aHandirs of Ait Brahim, but the mostly-hidden woman behind them is in the zebra-striped Ait Yaza cape. Ait Brahim's design features broad swaths of blue and red and black, with some white accents. Ait Yaza's is black and white striped, though a closer look reveals some red as well.

Here's a group of Ait Yaza women, awaiting the long-promised arrival of the king. (For the record, he finally reached us about 5 hours later. But the cheering, singing, and ululating didn't let up. These folks *love* their king.)
As you see, the Ait Yaza aHandir features black and white stripes, with red piping. Two women in the middle of the group aren't wearing their aHandirs, but are instead wrapped in lighter-weight outer garments. The one on the left is a bedsheet, which is common here (since aHandirs, when not being worn, look exactly like blankets to the uneducated eye, I suppose the logical extension is that in warmer weather, you should wear a sheet). The one on the right is wearing the traditional wrap of the southern region. You see them around here from time to time, as increased ease of transportation leads to more and more cultural exchanges. Speaking of cultural exchanges...

These two women, standing across the street from the line of Ait Yaza-dressed women, are wearing taHruyts, which aren't actually an Ait Hadidou tradition at all. These white, decorated capes are traditional to a tribe several mountain ranges away. However, a long time ago - exactly when is lost in the mists of memory - a woman came from that valley to Berberville with her taHruyt, and the women found it so beautiful (and sparkly!) that one copied the design for her own marriage, and then another did too, and now you're more likely to find taHruyts at weddings than aHandirs. Every woman still weaves herself an aHandir, of course - some things go without saying - but she might also make herself a taHruyt or two for her wedding day. Or, more likely, she'll borrow one from each of the two or three cousins that have one, and thus have them on her wedding day. (Property ownership is clear, here in Berberville, but property use is very nearly communal, especially within families.)

1 comment:

  1. I look forward to seeing a picture of you in your aHandir.


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