Axidava

The Peoples Of Africa: Kabyles

We rightly think of Africa as the home of the negroes, but it is a mistake to think that no other peoples dwell in that continent.

The peoples of North Africa are white peoples; their complexions are often dark, but in head, form, features, and character they are like Europeans, rather than negroes. There are many types in North Africa. There are the modern Egyptians, who look like their great and famous distant ancestors; there are the Berbers and Kabyles, of whom we shall say more later; there are Arabs; there are “Jews,” especially in Algeria, Morocco, and the other Barbary States; there are Moors also, who are a mixed people with some negro blood.

True Negro-Africa begins near the Equator and stretches southward. The Sudan is the great negro country. There are four areas in this Sudanese negro belt: the upper Nile valley, the Sudan proper, the Senegambian district, and Guinea. In these four sections the people are negroes, though here and there somewhat mixed. Most of Africa south of this negro belt is occupied by negroids, who consist of many tribes and resemble negroes in their narrow heads and woolly hair; they are, however, less dark in color, more graceful in build, and more intelligent. Scattered here and there in Equatorial Africa are bands of Pygmies, men and women among whom are like boys and girls among us in size. In far Southern Africa live the Bushmen and Hottentots, among negroid tribes.

The Kabyles are among the most interesting of North African peoples. There are two types, the dark and the light Kabyles. The latter have light skin, fair hair, blue eyes, and much resemble the light whites of Europe. The Kabyles are tall, well built, and active. They are industrious and love labor. They are a mountain people and love their home. Their towns are located upon the slopes or on the summits. The houses are usually of one story and have flat roofs. There are two rooms,—one for the family and the other for the animals. When there are two stories to a house, it shows that the owner has a married son living with him; the upper story has been built above the old house for the young couple. A little garden always surrounds the house. The Kabyl country is rather cold, and the houses are not widely separated, so that they assist in protecting each other against the winds. In winter the family lives in a sort of cellar under the house.

The Kabyles work hard to raise their little crops. Their fields are down in valleys or are terraced out on the hill slopes. They raise barley, wheat, gourds, cucumbers, and melons; they raise flax; they have some common cultivated plants that have been introduced from Mexico, as the prickly-pear cactus, maguey, maize, tobacco, and potato. The prickly pear and maguey are so common that landscapes in Algeria resemble those of Mexico. The Kabyles raise apples, pears, apricots, olives, figs, grapes, and nuts. They keep bees, and have quite a trade in wax. The men are good workers in metals and leather, and trade their wares to their neighbors.

The women, like all women in the Mohammedan world, delight in jewelry and ornaments, and as they are not wearers of veils they have a good chance to display their treasures. Couscous is a favorite food in Northern Africa, not only among Kabyles, but Arabs and other peoples. Kabyl women spend much of their time in its preparation. Flour is mixed with water into a sort of thick dough, which is divided into little masses which are rolled between the fingers. These little pellets, almost like seeds, they steam and eat with bits of meat and hot, peppery sauce.

The Kabyles love horseback riding, and are bold hunters. They fight bravely in defence of their homes. Among their amusements, perhaps falconry stands first. The falcon, you know, is a bird much like a hawk, which is trained to chase and kill or capture smaller birds or animals. It is carried to the field by the hunter on horseback. The bird is perched upon its master’s wrist, and is blinded by a hood over its head. When the hunter sees game, he unhoods the falcon and lets it fly after the victim.

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