Thousands of visitors flocked to the Moroccan seaside resort of Agadir for the 11th edition of the Timitar Festival, which celebrates the Amazigh culture of the population of North Africa and the Sahara Desert.
The four-day event featured Arab and other world music artists who came together to convey a message of peace and dialogue.
Ahidous is an Amazigh dance where poetry and rhythms go hand in hand.
“Ahidous is an art that we inherited from our ancestors and we should preserve it. We also hope that future generations will keep this art alive because it is their heritage,” said Hamid Ben Bassou, chairman of the Imdoukan Association for Ahidous Art.
The majority of Berbers, also referred to as Amazigh, went unrecognised in North Africa until the mid-1990s but have experienced a cultural renaissance in recent years.
Rayssa Naima Tisslatine is one of the most iconic contemporary Amazigh singers.
“We learnt the art of Amazigh music from other artists. We work with them in studios and in choirs. We are trying to preserve this art and promote it to the younger and the older generation. Even among the older generations, there are many people who appreciate what we do because we try to innovate and bring a fresh touch to our traditional heritage,” she said.
“Ever since the start, the spirit of this festival is for Amazigh artists to welcome world musicians. Each year, the best Amazigh musicians meet here on stage. But it’s also a meeting place for artists from all over the world to come and perform,” explained the festival’s artistic director, Brahim El Mazned.
Among the major international celebrities who attended this year’s event was Ivorian reggae singer Alpha Blondy, famous for his politically-engaged songs.
“My message is for all African leaders. Peace is the treasure of African nations. African countries can’t afford the luxury of going to war. That’s all I can say, we are here to encourage peace, we are here to promote peace, and anything that goes in that direction, if we are invited to join, we will come running,” said the iconic singer.
Egyptian celebrity Hany Shaker took to the stage for the closing concert. He had this message of peace for fellow citizens in the Arab world: “Right now, we need to be united. We shouldn’t be divided. We need to unite our efforts in order to be able to handle all the problems that the Arab World is facing.”
In the wake of Morocco’s independence, attempts to promote Amazigh language and culture were seen as a threat to national unity. But today, the reformed constitution – ratified in 2012 – recognises Morocco’s multi-ethnic identity, and Tamazight as an official language.