Rifian Resistance Poetry

Rifain Resistance Poetry

Amazigh tradition in the Rif has a very rich stock of resistance poetry. Towards the close of the 19th century the area was rocked by tensions producing total disorder, at the time of Spanish colonial encroachment.
Living in a traditional, strictly egalitarian society, the Rifian has had little use for intrusive, external forces, be they the Makhzen, or a colonial power. His seemingly ’dissident’ way of life was actually regulated by politico-military authority enshrined in an assembly know as the ’council of forty’. As of 1893, these freedom-loving mountaineers found themselves confronted with crushing Spanish military superiority. Unsurprisingly, poems of this period express collective disarray in the face of an enemy totally beyond their ken. From 1902 to 1908, the Rif became embroiled in the Buhmara rebellion, numerous Rifians rallying to his standard. Disenchantment, however, soon set in: the ’Pretender’ alienated himself through collaboration with the Spaniards, even selling them some land, notably Jbal Uksan, subject of a famous poem. Unfortunately, Buhmara’s defeat in 1908 did not mean an end to the Rifians’ tribulations. Spanish expansion in the Rif was now in full swing and there was no let-up in the fighting.

From 1908 till his assassination in 1912, Shrif Amezian, a symbol of regional unity and a highly charismatic figure, galvanised resistance in the Rif. After reverses inflicted on the Spanish at Ighzer U Wushshen and at Ijedyawen, Rifian imjuhad recovered their self-confidence. Simultaneously, far from being pervaded with religious undertones, Rifian poetry became more militant. The years after Shrif Amezian s death (1908-1920), however, proved something of a hiatus, as Rifian resistance slackened before fresh Spanish onslaughts.

The period 1921-1926 was marked by an upsurge in violence connected with the triumph over Spain at Anwal and the Rif war. This was a mere continuation of the earlier confrontation with Spain, now in military alliance with France. During this time, Abdelkrim s image in the Rifian collective consciousness rapidly took on semi-mythical tones. He became a hero among heroes , a guiding force, an almost sacred inspiration for anti-colonial resistance. At the end of the thirty-year Spanish protectorate, a fresh outburst of fighting, against the French this time (winter 1955-1956), bringing the colonial period to a close, gave rise to further poems.

Abdselam Khalafi
Al Akhawayn University, Ifrane, Morocco

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