Archive for the ‘Hawad’ Category

Hawad – The Tuaregs

June 11, 2013

Furigraphie2.Hawad Hawad, Tuaregs, The “Spiraling March”,
Le Monde Diplomatique, May 2012.

Are the armed Tuareg uprisings that have sprung up since the 1960s in Azawad (Mali), the Aïr, the Azawagh (Niger) or the Ajjer (Algeria) really surprising, incidental, unforeseeable? Certainly not. They are part of the long resistance of the Tuaregs to colonial empires.

“O world disaster, what desolation
my nation that rises up in the turmoil
that rides the bullet toward Medina
abandoning us in the land of submission
where I curl up in fear
of the column sent by the commandant
who musters all his infantry…

–poem by Bila, around 1900

The Tuaregs are divided today among Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Libya and Algeria. After their defeat against the guns of the colonial troops in the 19th century—Ottoman, French and Italian—who decimated the old military and political elite of the Tuaregs as well as a large part of the population, ruining the land and placing it under a harsh military control—which the Tuaregs call tiwta, the “disaster”—forms of resistance emerged involving profound transformations of society on the military, political, ideological and social levels.
This new type of resistance took shape around 1900. It laid the groundwork for the general insurrection of the Tuaregs in 1916 headed by Kawsen who had called it the “Spiraling March” because it used strategies of evasion adapted to unequal forces. The heroic war sung in the Tuareg epic poetry was replaced by guerilla warfare, the ambush, the fighters’ mobility, but also exile and the search for modern technical and military knowledge. The final defeat of the rebels and the hanging of Kawsen in 1919 was followed by a pitiless repression that, far from wiping out the “spiraling march”, made its spirit stronger in the Tuareg imagination.
The 1950s and 1960s saw the creation of the states of Mali, Niger, Algeria, Libya and Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta). The Tuaregs refused to be “the fifth wheel on the artificial framework of new States,” but their challenges were crushed. So, another phase of fringe resistance was built up: the teshumara. This name, formed from the French word “chômeur” [unemployed], reflected the situation of exclusion and marginalization of the Tuareg who could no longer live there and had to go into exile once again, to construct other ways of being, to find new partners, to acquire the knowledge that would allow them to recycle their weakness, defeat and the strangled horizons into tools for a future day “to mend the deserts” and “reconstruct the land.”
Resistance, first of all, consisted in being satisfied with not adopting the logic of the conquerors, despite adversity and defeat, and not being impressed by their armada. In short, to keep swarming under the steamroller. This period was marked by an intense artistic creativity that renewed the traditional poetry and music of the Tuareg world, accentuating and imposing life on the margin as a reference value.
It is in this context that in 1980 many young men answered the call of Muammar Gaddafi who was lacking cannon fodder. Bearing the burden of independence and old revolts bathed in blood, they got back on the road to exile. They left, like their parents before them, in search of ways to confront a world that gave them no role to play. Their motto: “Trade your blood for knowledge,” meaning military skill. They joined the Libyan barracks not for money nor for the illusion of supporting the cause; they knew that Gadaffi was steeped in pan-Arab and anti-Berber nationalism and would never help the Tuaregs liberate their lands. But they needed to get tough in the name of their land that they were hoping to free one day, as well as expressing their poetry of the 1980s.
The itinerary of these men, recently returned from Libya, is like their ancestors who at the beginning of the century fought for the order of Senussi against the colonial armies in the north of present day Chad, in Sudan, in eastern Libya and in Fezzan, finally to return home sixteen years later armed with rifles and cannons destined to “spit out of their land” the French occupiers.
Although different currents of rebellion choose either to take up arms or to remain in clandestine silence, aware of their weakness, all of them feed on this long experience of resistance and suffering: that of not being able to be what they want to be on the land of their ancestors.
For a long time the Tuaregs have followed their path and it is a solitary path. Their difficult march is, of course, hobbled by the contortions of realpolitik, by the manipulation of some leaders of the rebellion for the profit of various interest groups, against the background of global competition for access to the mining resources that arouse the greed of powers that are already obese but never sated. The “spiraling march” gets bogged down in radioactivity, uranium dust, toxic fumes, groundwater and air polluted by the extraction of minerals. And yet, it moves on.



January 25, 2012

The marriage feast is a theater where the rivalry of honor is expressed in songs, oratory games and gestures, from the most noble to the most vulgar, but also in the most eccentric behavior, from the realm of genies, reversing the order of society and the order of the universe to create a new space without any other framework than that of chaos and the void.

from La Tente déchirée

from Seven Fevers and a Moon

tongue chapped like the crocodile’s neck
i lead three ships
the first loaded with logs of the past
the second full of stars and volcano branches
that will stud the desert of the future
the third my body
bridge of fire poised between two shores of wind
Line up
line up along my spinal column
My voice is the harness of lightning
nailing the memory
onto the face of the dawn
Above the hive
that unites truth and lie
in the center of the flash
that fuses life and death
i stand up on the ashes
of what was once my reason
I scream i stammer i stretch
i bear tangled the ribbons of flame


December 6, 2011

Hawad, The autonomy of thought:

We can only count on ourselves and on our desire to transform death into life. The first autonomy we demand is not from Algeria or Niger or Mali or their master France. We require it of ourselves: it is the autonomy of thought. This is not a right, it is a duty. We have to come back to this because the oppressor has no project for us or for itself.
I am not saying we have to disconnect from the world, but we have to connect to our own thought production.
A society that no longer produces its own ideas or its own culture or its own viewpoint is the suburb excluded from the center of town. For me, the center is like a traffic circle that turns around itself to produce its own energy. Now, the center today is no longer the center—it has become its own suburb. To be the center, there have to be many convergences of roads… comings and goings: there are not. They keep us out. In Africa the States exile everyone except the bureaucrats, the administration and the talking heads. We, the Tuaregs and other peoples, have been pushed to the suburbs.
We have to make these suburbs into centers and forget about the center that is not a center. This is the only thing that gives me strength. The youth who agreed to lay down their weapons, like a bunch of sheep, did not notice that Bamako [Mali] was not a center anymore than Niamey [Niger] was to find food. There was a terrorist called the IMF and the gaping mouth of the States melded together in the emptiness.
We have to create independent roads and make our marginalization and exclusion by the States the starting point of new ways. It is our only salvation.

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