Jebel Sheshar

I belong to the Jebel Sheshar tribal confederation, and more specifically I am of the Banu Amrane located in Djellal.

Banu Amrane, Djellal, Khenshela

The confederation of Jebel Sheshar, composed of Chaoui populations, includes the douars Taberga, Aliennas, Oulja-Sheshar and Khanga Sidi Naji.

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The fractions of the douar which have been rebellious are those of the Ouled Amrane and Ouled Tifough (Aliennas), and those of Beni Imloul, Braja, and Oulja (Oulja-Sheshar).

The Jebel Sheshar confederation made its submission to General Bedeau in 1845. Its leader, Si Mohammed Tayeb bin Nacer bin Sidi Naji, marabout of Khanga Sidi Naji, who at that time had religious influence and political authority, dissuaded his fellow believers from resistance. However, at the time of the siege of Zaatcha in 1849, a marabout of the zawiya of Khirane (Aliennas) Si Abdelhafid preached jihad instead and appealed to the khouans of the Rahmaniyya order of which he was the moqaddem.

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He gathered four to five thousand Chaouis from the Jebel Sheshar confederation including those of Beni Bou Slimane and Ahmar Khaddou and walked to Biskra. Beaten in Seriana at Wadi El Abiod by the commander Saint Germain, Si Abdelhafid fled to Tunisia.

In 1850, the General Saint Arnaud traversed the confederation. His army went through the center of Khenshela and Babar, to Djellal and Khirane, to Oulja and Khanga Sidi Naji.

Khairane, Khenshela, 1917.

On June 1, 1850, in Oulja, two soldiers were murdered during the night. The General gave the Chaouis of the fraction twenty-four hours to deliver the guilty culprits. Instead of obeying, they attempted to escape. The troops hurried after them. Twenty-five fugitives were seized and shot on the field, harvests were burned down and the village of Oulja destroyed. This calmed all attempts at insubordination, and the French authority was henceforth well enough seated in the Jebel Sheshar confederation, able to police them.

Prisoners of Sheshar, 1917.

Yet, in 1859, the confederation took up the cause again, except for some Chaouis of the Beni Imloul. This tribe were prisoners of the marabout Si Saddouq ben El Hajj of Tibermacine. His three sons, organizers of a revolt by the Ahmar Khaddou tribe, were fleeing from General Desveaux. In 1871 and in 1879, the Beni Imloul remained deaf to the excitement of the rebels. When Sherif Mohammed Ameziane (ben Abderrahmane ben Hocine ben Abdelaziz ben El Haddad of Seddouk Oufella in Kabylia), head of the insurrection of 1879, defeated at R’baa (June 9, 1879), fled, a large number of his followers, believing to find help and protection among the Beni Imloul, went to them, by the valley of Oued Guechtane. They were disappointed. The Beni Imloul ruthlessly raided their fellow believers. They seized all their herds at the passage of Oued El Ma which gorges Oued El Abiod (access to the Meçara plateau), and the insurgents, continuing their escape, went to Zeribet El Oued, under the blows of the Beni Imloul goums. Since that time, and until 1916, Beni Imloul lived in peace solely concerned with its material interests.

Five groups, of which two include the Braja and Ouled Amrane, were a part of the Sidi Naji zawiya.

Nememsha

The Nememsha, a Zenatic confederation of which its subtribes that exist today are mixed with Arab origins, now take over what lies between Tebessa, Negrin oasis, Khenshela and Siar (South of the Aures). This is not their homeland. They say they are from the Jebel Sheshar and that they split in the Middle Ages after long quarrels with the Beni Barbar. As far as the memories of the Sheshar Zenata go back into the Middle Ages, they appear to be divided into four groups:

1) The Beni Barbar, who still occupy the Bejer Wadi, from Zawia to Ciar. The Nememsha had built “Thakelt Allemoush”, meaning “Village of the Nememsha” in Tashawit, on the edge of this wadi.
2) The Ouled Sultan, who occupy the northern part of Sheshar and are subdivided into Maafa, Ashesh, Tifoura, and Beni Amrane. Maafa are based mainly in Taberga, Beni Amrane in Djellal, Tameït and Zawia.
Taberga, Khenshela, 1917.
3) The Nememsha; completely isolated from Sheshar today, and have become nomadic between the Sahara and the region of Tebessa, a tribe which includes three fractions: the Ouled R’shash, the Brasha and the Alaouna. The founding ancestor of the Nememsha was a certain Mohammed Ben Othmane. His three sons produced these three branches and were named after them. A Tunisian named Mouley Ahmed, who pretended to be sherif, preached revolt and succeeded in grouping around him numerous partisans belonging to the three fractions of the Nememsha. Under colonial administration, the Nememsha were divided into three territories. One under Colonnel Sonnet following the mountains bordering the Sahara, the second under General Herbillon traversing the center of the country, and the third under colonel Senilhes in Tebessa and the border of Tunisia. Many from the Nememsha suffered from the rapid and forced emigration but persisted in not returning to their base, counting on the evacuation of their troops. The Nememsha did not worry about the maintenance of territory in Tebessa, which was and is one of the main outlets of their land, since the Alaouna and Brasha were submissive. The Ouled R’shash remained loyal to themselves in Batna. A war tax was levied on these different fractions; the Ouled R’shash remained under Khelifa Ben Ganah’s orders, the Alaouna and the Brasha received a caid from the hands of Colonel Senilhes. The insurgent Nememshas would scarcely exceed the North by Khenshela, Aïn Bida and Tebessa.

4) The Ouled Khiar, expelled like the Nememsha, and currently fixed in Souk-Ahras.

The large village of Nememsha was on the mountain of Taghit. Beni Barbar’s center was Tizegrarine. As for the Ouled Khiar, their original stronghold has been vainly sought. These four groups still speak the same dialect.

The Nememsha were camel and sheep farmers who exchanged their animals for dates harvested by the sedentary oases of the region. Their animals provided hair and wool with which they wove beautiful carpets with. For nomads, weaving is a very important activity. It not only makes the clothes they need to protect themselves from the cold (kashabias, bernous made of camel hair, etc), but also to have bedding and floor covers. Besides the utilitarian purpose of weaving, the Nememsha craftsmen give particular attention to colors and motifs mainly inspired by Chaoui ornamentation. The Nememsha are best known for their large, long, and narrow carpets (qtif), used to comfortably sleep on the ground. These very thick carpets measure up to seven meters long. On a very colorful background, the weavers adorn the carpet with a multitude of patterns of very different shapes: stars, lion’s footprints, and stylized carnations filling a field in sectors framed by listels. The borders are crossed by several parallel bands of different colors. Due to its large dimensions, the qtif remains an ideal carpet for nomadic life.

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Traditional Nememsha and Harakta carpet
Notes on Nememsha dialect of Tashawit:

The Nememsha dialect is of the easternmost extension of the Tashawit dialects. It is in direct contact with the Bedouin Arabic dialects. This group brings together the dialects of neighboring tribes: Harakta, Amamra, Jebel Sheshar. The two other Tashawit dialects are the central dialects of the Aures and the Western dialects (Belezma mountains) whose most striking linguistic features are the systematic weakening of / t />> h> ∅: (h) ameṭṭut “woman” (h) addart “house”, (h) ametna “rain”; the use of the direct and indirect pronoun of second person plural in -kum /-kumt (This feature creates a clear line between the eastern group and the two central and western groups also found in the Berber speech of Ouargla and some places in the Moroccan Rif). In this Eastern set, the Nememsha dialect has its own phonetic, morphological and lexical characteristics which immediately give it a particular physiognomy for an informed ear: there is a very clear tendency, especially with At R’shash, to drop the velar / ɣ / in final positions with replacement by an elongated ‘a’, in particular for the index of the 1st person singular for certain verbs and affixes in direct and indirect verbs, prepositions and possessive 1st person plural (a phenomenon also observed in Ouargla and Tataouine in Tunisia). Example: Ttettā < ttetteɣ, “I eat”.

Ouled Amrane

The Banu Amrane were said to be the chiefs of the Alids in Fez, Morocco. They were the leading nobility of the entire Maghreb. Their connection with the Idrisids is as follows: They are said to be the descendants of Amrane b. Muhammad b. al- Hasan b. Yahya b. Abdallah b. Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Yahya b. Ibrahim b. Yahya al Juti. The chief of their house was Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Amrane. There is of course a disclaimer that shorfa claims are subject to much uncertainty.

Ouled Belgacem are related to certain families of the Banu Amrane. Ouled Belgacem are related to the Dhouaouda tribe, descendant of the Banu Hilal.

The Banu Amrane built Djellal despite being a small group. Many imams in Khenshela are from Djellal (including my great-grandfather, May Allah accept all his efforts).

Djellal, Khenshela, 1917.

Ouled Amrane are distinguished from their neighbors, apparently, they use words only said in Djellal and Morocco. For example “house” is أَزَقَّى and “key” is هْنَاسَتْ.

Ouled Amrane took to the village of Ouled Sbaa to finance the revolution.

Sabotage of Beni Amrane territory

In 2015, the Court of Sheshar sentenced 50 people to 11 years in prison for charges of vandalism (among other crimes like beatings and intentional wounds).

This case dates back to 2011 when members of the Sidi Naji tribe, on the borders of Khenshela and Biskra, attacked members of the Beni Amrane tribe in Djellal, destroyed their property and cars, and left ten people with injuries of varying degrees. The conflict between the two sides of the agricultural land has been long-standing.

After the violent quarrel, the National Gendarmerie intervened and put an end to it. They referred to the files provided by judicial authorities and the submission of complaints sent to the Court of Sheshar. The judge provided this after completing all the proceedings on trial. The trial lasted more than 7 hours in which victims, witnesses, and the accused were heard.

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