The inauguration of a statue bearing the effigy of an Egyptian pharaoh, Tuesday, January 12 in Tizi-Ouzou, Kabylia, on the occasion of the celebration of the Berber New Year (Yennayer), arouses passions in Algeria and in Egypt. To celebrate the arrival of the Berber year 2971, the municipality erected a giant statue of Pharaoh Sheshonq Ier (“Chachnaq”, in Tamazight language). Over four meters high and sculpted by two young artists, Hamid Ferdi and Samir Salmi, it was unveiled on Friday, according to local media. But his installation sowed discord on social networks.
“I find that we are showing too great and singular lightness in the face of history by taking the initiative to erect a statue for an Egyptian pharaoh to whom we attribute vague Berber origins and whom we do not know much about. thing “, commented journalist Djamel Alilat on Facebook. On Twitter, the hashtag “Chachnaq est Egyptian” adorns messages from Algerians and Egyptians believing that its history belongs to Egypt and not to the Maghreb.
An “arbitrary” choice
According to historian Fouad Soufi, interviewed by AFP, Chachnaq was “A powerful man, one of the most important generals of Pharaonic Egypt”. “He took power around 945 BC, at the time of a succession crisis, and founded a dynasty”, but he was “Totally Egyptianized and turned towards Palestine”, even if we attribute Berber origins to him, adds Mr. Soufi. The date of January 12 of the year 950 BC was chosen by Berber activists as the starting point of the Amazigh calendar, in reference to the accession to the throne of Chachnaq. But “The date of the enthronement of Chachnaq is difficult to estimate”, nuance the historian, evoking a choice “Arbitrary”.
Yennayer is an agrarian festival which corresponds to the first day of the Julian calendar introduced in – 46 BC. AD in ancient Rome. The peasants maintained the tradition, appropriating it, without necessarily knowing its origin. In December 2017, former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika decided to make it a public holiday in Algeria. Traditional dishes, songs, dances, games, theater and equestrian parades are each year on the menu of the Berber New Year festivities. This year, there are few official events due to the health crisis.