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The Rebirth of a Diminished Language: Tamazight in Morocco

November 05, 20197:00 p.m.
Casa Árabe Auditorium (at Calle Alcalá, 62). 7:00 p.m. Free entry until the event’s capacity is reached.
In French, with simultaneous translation into Spanish.

As part of the International Year of Indigenous Languages, Casa Árabe and the Euro-Arab Foundation for Higher Studies (Fundea) have organized this conference given by Professor Fatima Agnaou in Madrid this Tuesday, October 5., a university professor and researcher at the Royal Amazigh Culture Institute of Morocco (IRCAM), will be accompanied by Olivia Orozco, Casa Árabe’s Training and Economic Coordinator, and Helena de Felipe Rodríguez, a professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Alcalá.

Promoting Amazigh culture falls within the constitutional framework of acknowledging the diversity which characterizes the national arena of culture in Morocco. The Preamble of the Constitution defines Morocco as a Muslim state with a plural identity due to the co-existence of several member groups: Amazigh, Arab, Hassaniya, African and Jewish. Amongst these, the Amazigh as a group form the historical and civilizational foundation of the national identity, a background ignored for a long time period but which is now growing fully recognized, since the Constitution of 2011. The Tamazight language is in fact gaining recognition as an official language alongside the Arabic language.

The promotion of Amazigh culture has formed part of IRCAM’s purpose as an entity since it was created in 2001. The results which it has achieved throughout these years has been positive to a great extent, because it has been possible to carry out a large number of activities within the fields in which the entity works, namely, the organization of the language, translation and terminology, encoding the Tifinagh script, literary and artistic forms of expression, education and training, new information technologies, historical and anthropological research, and cooperation with civil society. Some deficiencies and limitations have kept it from achieving all of its objectives, but the implementation of the national law enacted last September will certainly make it possible to move even further ahead on the path towards realizing linguistic and cultural rights, making Morocco a model for equitable management of rights belonging to indigenous peoples.

Casa Árabe has organized this conference within the framework of the International Year of Indigenous Languages with the cooperation of the International Chair for Amazigh Culture, of the Euro-Arab Foundation for Higher Studies in Granada, which is holding its fourth Euro-Amazigh Forum, titled “The Amazigh Diaspora: Berbers in/from Europe,” in Granada on November 7 and 8, 2019.

Fátima Agnaou will also be giving a “Tifinagh writing workshop” the day before, November 4, 2019, at 6:00 p.m., at Casa Árabe.

Fatima Agnaou is a university professor and researcher at the Center for Research on Teaching and Pedagogical Programs at the IRCAM. She has authored Gender, Literacy and Empowerment in Morocco (Routledge, 2004) and several education and applied linguistics articles that have been published in domestic and foreign journals. She also co-authored Alphabétisation et développement durable au Maroc: Réalité et perspectives (Literacy Programs and Enduring Development in Morocco: Realities and prospects, Rabat, 2001). In 2010, she directed one of the issues of the journal Language and Linguistics based on the book L’enseignement de la langue amazighe au Maghreb, (Teaching of the Amazigh Language in the Maghreb Region, published by Imprimerie Universitaires Fès), and in 2011 Le Lexique Scolaire (School Vocabulary), publications put out by the IRCAM. She is also a member of the editorial committee for the scientific journal ASINAG.

Helena de Felipe is an associate professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Alcalá. Her research has focused on the history of the Berbers in the medieval Islamic West and Spanish-Moroccan relations (in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries). She has authored Identidad y onomástica de los beréberes de al-Andalus (Identity and Onomastics of the Berbers in Al-Andalus, CSIC, 1997) and studies like “The Butr and North African Ibāḍism: Praise and Criticism of the Berbers” (in L’ibadisme dans les sociétés de l’Islam médiéval, [Ibadism in the Societies of Medieval Islam], De Gruyter, 2018) and  “The Berbers in Spanish Colonial Discourse” (Journal of Mediterranean Studies, 2016), as well as many others. She co-edited Genealogy and Knowledge in Muslim Societies: Understanding the Past (with S. Bowen Savant, Edinburgh University Press, 2014) and El protectorado español en Marruecos. Gestión colonial e identidades (The Spanish Protectorate in Morocco: Colonial management and identities, with F. Rodríguez Mediano, CSIC, 2002), in addition to others. She is currently an IP for the R&D Project (DHUNA), Human Dynamics in North Africa: Population and landscape in historical perspective, which make up the MAGNA Project along with GEOMAGRED (coordinated by M. Á. Manzano).

Conference information sheet

2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages

The Rebirth of a Diminished Language: Tamazight in Morocco
Tamazight is an Afro-Asiatic language which belongs to the Hamito-Semitic family of languages. It includes a whole series of variants which are spoken by the Amazigh Berber people indigenous to the countries in North Africa, in parts of Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Mali, Niger, Egypt, the autonomous cities of Melilla and Ceuta, and the Canary Islands. Tifinagh (ⵜⵉⴼⵉⵏⴰⵖ), known in its ancient form as “Libyc Berber,” is the alphabet which is used to write Tamazight. It is written from left to right and dates back to at least the third century BC.
In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly enacted a resolution in which the year of 2019 was proclaimed the International Year of Indigenous Languages, on the basis of a recommendation made by the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Affairs (UNPFII). At that time, the Forum indicated that 40% of the 6,700 calculated to be spoken around the world were in danger of disappearing. The fact that most are indigenous languages puts the cultures and knowledge systems to which they belong in jeopardy. Moreover, indigenous peoples are not only at the forefront of protecting the environment, but their languages also represent complex systems of knowledge and communication and must be recognized as a strategic national resource for development, strengthening peace and achieving reconciliation. The celebration of the International Year of Indigenous Languages in 2019 will help to promote and protect indigenous languages and improve the lives of those who speak them.

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Tifinagh writing workshop

On the upcoming date of November 4, university professor Fatima Agnaou will be giving this free workshop to initiate learners in the writing and culture of the Amazigh people (Berbers). Registration has now begun.
From October 18, 2019 until November 4, 2019 MADRID