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The Significance of Yennayer 2950

by Salah Badjou

(Yennayer was celebrated on Saturday, January 15. Mr. Badjou addressed the history behind the celebration at a gathering in Brooklyn, New York in honor of the Amazigh new year.)

Yennayer 1, 2950 marks the Amazigh new year. The origin of Yennayer refers to the first mention of the Amazigh people in historical records: the founding by Amazigh Pharaoh Sheshonq I of the 22nd pharaonic dynasty in 950 BC, followed by the 23rd and 24th Amazigh pharaonic dynasties, over 200 years (950 BC-712 BC) of Amazigh rule in ancient Egypt. According to ancient Egyptian historian, Manetho (3rd century BC) and archaeological records, the Amazigh pharaonic dynasties brought back stability to Egypt by reunifying it and defending it against foreign enemies from the East.

In summary, Yennayer 2950 commemorates the first mention of the Amazigh people in history. Significantly, it refers to Imazighen as the defenders, promoters, and contributors to the glorious Egyptian civilization.

History shows that this was just the beginning of Imazighen's numerous contributions to world civilization. Following the betrayal of their treaties with Imazighen, the Romans overcame the heroic resistance of Amazigh King Yugurthen, and they imposed a colonial rule denying basic human rights to Imazighen, including education, by adopting a classic method of divide and conquer. In spite of this, Imazighen contributed major thinkers such as Apulee, Tertulien, Saint Cyprian, and Saint Augustine. At a time when Christianity faced repression and challenges from the decadent pagan Roman emperors, Imazighen provided the rational and philosophical foundations of modern day Christianity. They also upheld the true practical significance of Christianity, as an ideology of liberation by the heroic struggle of the donatists against the Roman oppressors and their pseudo Christian allies.

Imazighen as perpetual torch bearers of world civilization brought to glorious heights Islamic civilization in Tamazgha and Andalusia. They made major contributions to the sciences, philosophy, theology, jurisprudence, mysticism, and art. They contributed major thinkers and scientists such as Ibn Khaldun, the founder of modern scientific history and sociology, and Ibn Rushd (Averroes), doctor, astronomer, jurist, and philosopher who had a major influence on the development of western through and civilization. They taught their European students--among whom is included such as Francis Bacon--the sciences, philosophy, and arts, and introduced the scientific method, laying the foundations of the European renaissance.

Ibn Khaldun wrote in his "History of the Berbers":

Let's mention a number of man's virtues which became a second nature for the Berbers: their zeal to acquire praiseworthy qualities, the nobility of their soul which brought them to the first ranks among nations, the actions by which they deserved the praise of the universe, their bravery and promptness to defend their hosts and clients, keeping their promises, engagements, and treaties, patience in adversity, firmness in great afflictions, meekness of character, empathy in others' weaknesses, forgiveness, generosity towards the unhappy and poor, respect to the elders and devout, industry, hospitality, charity, magnanimity, hatred for oppression displayed against the empires which threatened them...,devotion to God and his religion: here is, for the Berbers, a number of virtues they inherited from their ancestors and whose presentation, put in writing, could have served as an example to future nations.

Imazighen then went through a period of decline, facing numerous invasion attempts from the Spaniards, culminating with the French invasion in 1830. Through a ruthless and systematic suppression of Amazigh social structures, the barbaric French colonization of most of Tamazgha attempted more than any other invader before to divide Imazighen and destroy their culture and personality.

In conclusion, today we celebrate Yennayer 2950, 2950 years of a glorious history. Imazighen, in their mountains, are the inheritors of the wisdom and philosophy of our ancestors. Following the teachings of Mouloud Mammeri, we must understand and uphold the wisdom and customs they convey to us, which will enlighten our path toward the renaissance of Tamazight civilization. We must, as Amazigh scientists, artists, and others, be guided by the philosophy, wisdom, and custom of these Imsdurar.

The renaissance of Tamazgha requires the unity of all Imazighen, rising above minor disagreements. For the success of Tamazgha is the success of all its sons and daughters. In order to unite, we must have a thorough understanding of our history: what made us strong but also what led to the colonization of our motherland. Only then, can we learn the lessons of History, and bring about a true and everlasting renaissance for Tamazgha.

For as Ibn Khaldun wrote:

The past and the future resemble each other like two drops of water...If we do not evaluate the past by what we have under our eyes, if we do not compare the past with the present, we can scarcely avoid escaping and straying away from the path of truth.

The Amazigh poet Ben Mohamed says:

Kul agdud ihwaj tilleli
Kul tilleli t hwaj lharma
Kul lharma t hwaj tadukli
Kul tadukli t hwaj lfhama

The celebration of our ancestral customs and holidays plays an important role in uniting us. We Imazighen overseas can and must unite and contribute our best to the survival and renaissance of Tamazight civilization. Our presence here today to celebrate Yennayer 2950 illustrates the beginning of an awareness which should be part of a systematic and continuous effort to reveal our glorious history.


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