Definition of Berber
- The Berbers are indigenous people from an ethnic group of North Africa. The term Berber comes from Greek which meant in ancient Greece “non-Greek speaking” or “non-Greek people”. The Berber identity includes language, religion and ethnicity, and is implanted in the history of North Africa.
- North African countries have retained the Berber language and culture. There are between 30 and 40 million Berber speaking people in Africa. Most of them live in Morocco and Algeria, with some living in Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Egypt.
- Though stereotyped in Europe and North America as nomads, most Berbers were traditionally farmers, living in mountains close to the Mediterranean coast. There were about 2.2 million Berber immigrants in Europe, especially in Belgium, the Netherlands and France.
- Prior to the invasion by the Arabs in the 7th century, Berber people were either Christians, Jews or Animists. An Animist believes that it is not only humans who have souls and spirits but that all plants, animals and even the land is spiritual, connecting us all to one another.
- The Berbers live traditionally in a tribal system. A leader is designated to command the tribe. In the Middle Ages, women had the power to govern.
- The rites of marriage are different for each tribe. Men typically choose a wife for themselves within their tribe, but the decision can be made by families. Berber people have a strong sense of unity which protects their culture.
- Men work on the farm and raise animals. The farmers are assured of an abundance of wool, cotton and plants used for dyeing. While women take care of the family, they also make handicrafts which are for family use and sold at the markets.
- The tribes have their own weaving traditions (colors and patterns used). The knotting techniques were passed down from generation to generation. Beni Ourain rugs are the most well-known Berber rugs globally. They are characterized by their shaggy fiber and the traditional geometric pattern on a natural, ivory wool base.
- Women usually weave these rugs. They add elements from their lives and cycles into the designs. These can be references to natural events like birth, fertility, nature and femininity.
- Traditional Berber jewelry is worn by Berber women of rural groups. It is made of silver and includes different shapes (circles, triangles or squares) and encompasses necklaces, bracelets, earrings and headdresses.