Do you know what the North Africans looked like before the invasion of Islam and the Arabs?

For nearly a century, the Africanity of the Maghrebians as well as the Libyans and Egyptians has been the subject of heated debate. One of the main drivers of this debate is their appearance.

At first glance, the majority of North Africans would pass for Middle Easterners or Mediterranean Europeans. On a map, these groups of people are also close.

However, this similarity in appearance is explainable.

The climate in the world has an influence on their appearance. Second, due to their closeness to each other, the mixing of their peoples should be natural.

These two prima facie facts aside, however, there should be little doubt what the peoples of North Africa looked like before the invasions.

The 6th century Roman poet, Corippus, in his book Johannis, describes the Berbers as “facies nigroque colorus” which means “faces of black color”.

In the same century, Procopius in book IV of History of wars discussed the difference between the Vandals who had settled in North Africa and the Moors.

Procopius says that the Vandals did not have “black skin like the Maurusioi (Moors)”.

The tribes he classified as Maurusioi are those who are now described as ancient Berbers. They include the Numidians, the Masaesyle, the Gaitules, the Massyles, the Masmuda and the Mezikes.

Nasr Khusrau, an 11th century Iranian also described the Masmuda soldiers of the Fatimid dynasty as “black Africans”.

But it would take more to convince part of the Africanity of the Maghreb. Arab and by extension, the Islamic invasion of North Africa dates from around the 6th century, but after Christianity permeated the region for half a millennium.

Perhaps the criterion sought is the same as that given to us by our studies of ancient Egypt.

Through Egyptology, we understood that before the invasions of North Africa by the Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Ottomans, there was a civilization in the place we now call Egypt.

Ancient Egypt is important to some Pan-Africanists because its civilization represents an example of the height of the unaided capacity of an African people.

This insistence on purity can be drastic, but not without justification. Africans were told in the recent past that they had no history to learn “but the history of Europeans in Africa”.

On this basis, it is necessary to identify for the purposes of education and construction of a Pan-African narrative, certain groups of people who have lived in northern Africa outside the Egyptians and before the foreigners significantly change their views. lifestyles.

We can for example take two groups of people.

The first are the Nubians. They were located around northern Sudan and southern Egypt today.

At the height of their civilization around the 5th century BC, the Nubians developed their language, art, architecture, agriculture, politics, among others.

Although they learned a lot from Egypt and the kingdoms of eastern Sudan, the Nubians were typically “African” as influence from outside was very minimal.

The Berbers are also another indigenous group of North Africa. Instead of being an identifiable group, the Berbers are a collection of peoples from modern Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania.

The real name of the people is the Amazigh but was called Berber by the Romans. Berber is the root of the “barbarians”.

They were mostly nomads, very few with sedentary cultures. However, some historians place their existence in North Africa around 3000 BC.

What should be remembered from the identification of these groups of people is that they are still found in present-day North Africa.

Perhaps the idea of ​​Africanity goes beyond identifying ethnic groups. It can be a willingness of people to be part of the continent’s goals and values. But even if so, there are too many affinities between sub-Saharan Africa and the north for people to focus on their differences.

About Wesley V. Finley

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