The value of language

I have always believed in human values as a basic principle of respect and coexistence between the different cultures that inhabit this planet. If some peoples came from the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean, others came from the Red Sea or the Black Sea. The languages and traditions that we see in our cities today are the result of this mixture.

There is not a language on earth today that has not incorporated new terms. In the case of the Hassanian language spoken in Western Sahara, it is written in Arabic script and has words of Sanhaya origin from the Berber groups that introduced the dromedary to Africa. An animal that served as a means of transport for the long journeys from oasis to oasis.

There is not, a people on earth who have not used the word to communicate. The Saharawis did so through long poems that they memorised and preserved from generation to generation. In these poems was written the story of a well, a mountain, a woman or a man.

The Sahrawi poet Husein Moulud, who has an extensive collection of poems in Hasania, is a clear example of this genre of poetry that has its roots in the past and retains the value of a gaf, which is a short verse, or a talaa, which is the development of a poem through a particular theme that serves as a source of inspiration.

Husein Moulud in the poem “a hairstyle of braids”, makes a precise description from the beauty and highlights the tradition as a poetic subject in the following verses:

Her braided hairstyle
is what one desires
it is authentic,
because there is no hairstyle
that looks like it,
when she
grows like her hair.
A few flowers dangle from her tresses
they shine gracefully,
near the necklace of solid stones,
near the hair of pearls,
it’s a braided hairstyle
the hairstyle that revives the soul.

This poet evokes Western Sahara from the regions of Tiris and Zemur, words of Sanhaya origin like most toponymic names. It is there that the language of the Beni Hassan and the Sanhaya mutually enrich each other. Words such as Tilimsi or Tamura, all related to wells and the accumulation of water after rain, are part of the Hassan language, which has its roots in the language of the Zenagas.

The meeting of one people with another has always brought new words and knowledge that have served to transform the language. Today the word Spoon or Radio is part of Hasania and has its own particular pronunciation when used by the Saharawis.

Today, sadly, hasania is experiencing a profound decline among the new generations of Saharawis who were born under Moroccan occupation. The education system does not include hasania and knowledge of its poets. It is essential to know the poets of a language in order to preserve the essence of each word and keep the memory of a people alive.

Ali Salem Iselmu Abderrahaman