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At the origins of April 20, 1980

The more enlightened men are, the more free they are.


The author of ‘La Colline oubliée’, a masterpiece of Algerian literature and widely hailed, when it appeared, as one of the most decisive works in Mammeri’s work, as well as the most representative of the Algerian condition at the time of French colonization. A condition carried like an immeasurable ballast on a back of a country that refused to waver, always rising with dignity and whose scars bleed with each beat of injustice, not the blood of denial but that of anger against the yoke of colonization.

La colline oubliée was not only, in the novel of Mammeri, this small elevation of ground whose slopes are soft and rounded or such represented by one of the most subtle parables, whose allegorical tradition in Kabylia abounds in abundance, like a wheat field at the peak of its maturation, or like necklaces adorning their shining mountains in the Kabyle country. It was also an eminence of the resistance against the processions of the foreign occupiers, stumbling on the proverbial resistance of the inhabitants of Kabylia, but always end up taking possession of the land of the Kabylians after having sown death and desolation in their passage.

But like roots hibernating under the thick ash of oppression, the value of its soil splits the bitterness of the scorched earth and revives on its soil the seeds of rebirth, resistance and anger of the righteous. And the Righteous, Mouloud Mammeri wove them a brilliant thought in his novel ‘Le Sommeil des justes’, an awake sleep, a contemplative sleep, meditating on an awakening in the light of a new day, a day of light and freedom.

Old Kabyle poems: “if you thirst for justice, fight and become a poet”

O my heart!
O my heart, be a good rider!
Don’t ride the wind!
The jar which is full of honey
His guardian angel is humility
All those who come to knowledge and to light
It is with courage that they conquered them!
O my heart, be a good rider!
Don’t ride a butterfly
Carried away by any breeze that blows
He can’t face the wind
If you thirst for justice
Fight or become a poet!

Ay ul-iw
Ay ul-iw ili-k d-amnay
Ur rekkeb ara f-lahawa
Lhila ixeznen ttament
Aslagh ynes d nniya
Kra gwin yegwden ar tafat
S ssber i-tt-id ihella!
Ay ul-iw ili-k d-amnay!
Ur rekkeb ara afertetu
Abehri i d-yewwten yeggwi-t
Ur izmir ara i wadu
My yella tebghid lheqq

Like a peasant cherishing his plot of land or like a father passionately loving his younger child, Mouloud Mammeri explores in his harvest of ancient Kabyle poems the oral tradition in Kabylia, guardian of the temple and ancestral values. In this poem celebrating the poet in his militant outpouring, Mouloud Mammeri highlights the dimension of struggle irreversibly rooted in the historical path of Kabylia, a region rebellious in essence.

O my heart be a good rider!

The heart, this seat of sensitivity, of feelings, of passion, is like a good horseman who rides in the battlefields in search of victory, a victory on the path of freedom and not domination on land which he does not belong to.

So is ancient Kabyle poetry, a call of the righteous for a noble cause and a displacement of the fragments of a fractured bone for a reconstruction of the framework of a legacy more than ancestral.

The jar which is full of honey, its guardian age is humility.

The jar is of great symbolic importance in Kabyle culture. Because, beyond the container itself, the receptacle of an essential commodity in the food of the Kabyle, it is also draped in an allegorical dimension, that of the preservation of the traditions and values of the ancestors. The inheritance of a jar is analogous to that of the earth, it is in its depths that food is taken to appease hunger in times of great famine.

All that happens to knowledge and to light, it is with courage that they have conquered them.

Light, in ancient Kabyle poetry, is at the same time intelligence, clarity of mind, knowledge and guide. It is also the expression, in a coded style, of hidden feelings. And it is the metaphorical charge of ancient Kabyle poetry that unites all the genius of Kabyle poets.

Kabyle poetry never straddles a butterfly carried by the breezes of the wind to fertilize the field of life, because a good rider has a sharp look and a just heart. To be a good horseman, and moreover, a fine poet, the verb mixes with the sword in a sort of mystical communion. The sword hurts, the words hurt too. The sword heals, the words too.

At the origins of April 20, 1980.

A lecture by Mouloud Mammeri on ancient Kabyle poetry was cancelled on the orders of the political authorities and Mouloud Mammeri who came from Algiers was arrested in Draa-Ben-Khedda. In protest, the students occupied the campus and the police forcefully removed them on April 20, 1980.

The genesis of the Berber spring in 1980 shook off, giving rise to a popular uprising for democracy and the emancipation of Berber culture. A genesis whose wills are perpetuated until today, and whose testimony is the full recognition of the Amazighity of Algeria for a veritable reconstruction of national identity. And as in this fragment of an old Kabyle poem: If you thirst for justice, build yourself or be a poet.

Poetry and wrestling are inseparable from Berber culture. And history is there to testify that the illustrious fighters for the emancipation of the Berber culture, were above all chasers of the word before they had the excellence of the sword.

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