Unknown protagonists silenced by official sources, the Berbers (or Imazighen, as they prefer to be known) are the group of peoples who since ancient times occupied almost all of North Africa, from the Siwa oasis (west of Egypt) to the Atlantic Ocean, including the Canary Islands, and from the Mediterranean to the south border of the Sahara.
Throughout history they have gone by many other names (Mauri, Libu, Numidians, Gaetuli, Garamantes…) reflecting their internal, geographical, and cultural plurality.
The Imazighen have witnessed numerous migrations, colonisations, and invasions. All have enriched their identity, while reducing their population through assimilationist policies.
However, the Berbers survive. It is calculated that there are currently over 35 million Berber, 20 million in Morocco, while the European and American diaspora account for several million
The Amazigh identity or identities are today reflected above all in their language, TAMAZIGHT, in its different variations (Tarifit. Tashelhit, Tamahaq…). It is also reflected in their awareness of sharing a common legacy of traditions, celebrations, and customs, and finally in their willingness to accept this legacy as their own.
From the late 11th century, major dynasties from North Africa such as the Almoravid (lamțūna) and then the Almohad (masmuda) tried to reunify the Islamic West, reinterpreting Is lam and homogenising and highlighting the Amazigh language ge and culture which became driving forces for Islamisation. However, the influence of the Imazighen did not end there.
At the height of the hegemony of the feudal kingdoms, from the 13th century, a new power came into play, the Marinids. The ties between this emirate with its seat in Fez and that of the Nasrid in Granada were solid, with mutual influences and extensive exchanges. This can be observed in the Alhambra and the major institutional constructions (madrasa, maristan, gates…) but also in everyday ceramic goods. It has even been argued that a Maghrebisation took place in Granada.
Mask from the BaSongye, whose Word for mask, kifwebe, is commonly applied by collectors to this type of mask. The male mask embody the power of sorcery and perform spectacular feats to induce fear in the spectators.
Fanti doll, clearly related in form ton the Ashanti akua ba. It has been claimed that both types of doll are Ashanti, and that the round-headed type is worn when girls is desired and the rectangular-headed type when a boy is wanted, but in fact they are the work of diferent peoples.
Wooden figures covered with brass or copper sheeting are placed by the BaKota over a package containing simple bones of outstanding ancestors. The form was developed to display as much of the valuable metal as possible. (Juan Gris made a copy of one in cardboard in 1922)
Figure from northern Nigeria have been made by a Mumuye. A remarkable feature of the style is the way in wich the arms and even the abdomen of one piece are used to enclose space within the sculpture.
White faced mask of type used by the BaKota, BaLumbo, BaPunu, Mpongwe and several other tribes. Documented pieces have been collected among all these peoples. Among th BaPunu the wearer dances on sitis
Mask made by the Fang, given in 1905 to Maurice Vlaminck whom sold it to Andre Derain. It was seen also by Picasso and Matisse. This was not the first African sculpture to attract Valminck, but it appears to be the only one from this time wich is still certainly identificable.
The city of 333 saints takes its name from Tamasheq ‘tin’ or ‘tim’ Buktu, wich means the well of buktu, the name of the guardian of the place who saw the touaregs arrive in the 11th century. This place is still visible in the city amongst other architectural treasures to discover.
Set up in Amsterdam, in 1983, at the instigation of its current President, Michel Leveau, the Olfert Dapper Foundation takes its name from a xviith-century Dutch humanist who, despite never leaving his native country, wrote an encyclopedic description of Africa, first published in 1668.
The purpose of this private non-profit organization is to raise the profile of sub-Saharan Africa’s artistic heritage and contribute to its conservation, by staging exhibitions and awarding research bursaries.
Director Christiane Falgayrettes-Leveau was on the Musée du quai Branly steering committee from 1999 to the end of 2004 and is a member of the Committee for the Memory of Slavery (CPME), set up on January 5th 2004.
A good way of recognising new arrivals to a city is, if you are travelling alone, is a muted anger whereas if you are travelling in company, this takes the form of an open argument.
Distrust, doubts, the relative nature of what one takes as read at a few hours’ distance, undermine the bemused and weary traveller’s patience.
Perhaps it is in these moments when the journey reveals itself to the traveller.