Writing and Performing for Algeria

Il-ktieb Isefra - l-istejjer ta' poplu

An evening of socially and politically committed literature inspired by Africa was held at the University of Malta’s Francis Ebejer Hall in March 1999 as part of the African Week organized by the Third World Group. The evening’s special guests were performers Moussé and Thioune Fatou Ndiaye from Senegal and musician Jamil Limam from Tunisia.

The evening was dedicated to Algeria, a resourceful country of 29 million people that has been living the daily tragedy of internal social and political strife ever since the military took over the country on January 11, 1992, ironically thirty years after it became independent from France. The evening focussed on the Berbers, the original inhabitants of Algeria and North Africa in general, and the richness of their culture. Many Berber singers and writers, expressing themselves in their native language, have publicly opposed the atmosphere of violence and conflict that has overcome Algeria since 1992; some have been assassinated for doing just that. In September 1994, forty-two year old popular rai singer Matoub Lounes was abducted and released within a week by the extremist Armed Islamic Group (GIA), but he was then killed in a roadblock in June 1998.

One of the four poems by Berber writers that were presented during the evening, ‘The Road to Freedom’ by Madjid Chaoui, was translated into Maltese by an Algerian Berber scholar and presented in public for the first time. The poem is one of the 21 literary works included in a 44-page booklet that was launched during the evening. Other works include previously unpublished poems by Oliver Friggieri, John Buttigieg, Leslie Vassallo and a host of other young Maltese and African writers. Also included is a translation into Maltese by Karl Coleiro from the original in Arabic of an Egyptian short story by Mahmud Taimur.

During the evening, the organisers, in collaboration with Amnesty International (Malta), launched a campaign in favour of disappeared persons in Algeria, focussing in particular on the case of 21-year-old Amine Amrouche who was last seen more than two years ago and was allegedly being held in solitary confinement at a police station in Algiers.


Ray Calleja and Marcelle Theuma gave a vivid interpretation of the literary works and presented the evening. Jamil Limam played a number of Algerian numbers by well-known musicians like Cheb Hosni and Cheb Khaled and another tune in which he improvized on one of his compositions. Performers Moussé and Thioune Fatou Ndiaye, both born into a Senegalese griot family, played, sang and danced to a traditional song and highlighted their role in the griot tradition not only as artistic performers by also as mediators ‘connecting’ people. For the good number of people who attended the evening, including special guest, Prof. Charles Villa-Vicencio from the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the evening managed to ‘connect’ the various cultures present on stage and in the audience.

Isefra ~ L-istejjer ta’ Poplu (isefra being Berber for ‘poems’), produced by Koperattiva Kulturali Universitarja and Inizjamed in collaboration with the University Precincts Office and BOV Club, was held as part of the African Week organized by the Third World Group and Koperattiva Kummerc Gust between 15 and 20 March.

For copies of the booklet Isefra ~ L-istejjer ta’ Poplu and information on how to help Amnesty International seek information about Amine Amrouche and other disappeared persons contact Inizjamed at inizjamed@email.com or the world shop L-Arka, at 306, St. Paul’s Street, Valletta (tel. 244 865).


Adrian Grima





Algeria (Maps.com)


Ara l-artiklu: Ir-Rizorsi ta' l-Algerija



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