|Illizi Festival, 2000|
Mann Taylor's Home Page
Mann Taylor's Home Page
|by Fergie Norris|
There I was, pinching myself, the sky was
clear blue, it was a sparkling November morning. All around
me was a cacophony of sound: hypnotic drum beats, women and
children singing, dancers a whirl of colour right in front of
my eyes. I was sitting in an armchairyet this was not
televisionit was real!
were the women drummers, clad head-to-toe in shocking pink, scarlet or fuchsia,
set off by swathes of dark, shimmering, indigo cloth. Hennaed hands, red fingernails
and copious silver rings, bangles and necklaces completed their costumes. They
carried small tambourine-shaped drums and they tapped out the pulsating beats
with thin, curving canes. Those not drumming, clapped their hands and sang hypnotic
chanting verses punctuated now and then by ululations and cheers from the crowd.
Between them and me, the men danced whirling backwards and forwards in a graceful ballet. They wore long white robes over which they sported a black tabardall held together by a criss-cross of red, white and gold from shoulders to waist. Their faces were totally covered by a black veil set off by a scarlet fez, bedecked with silver jewellery and turquoise tassels. They carried swords in one hand and their loved ones scarf in the other. Others carried long, green camel whips adorned with red, orange and gold tassels. Yet another group chose beautifully decorated shields in red or ochre, depicting warriors from pre-historic times. They all danced in front of uswe could almost reach out and touch them mesmerising us with the colour and the musicbefore they vanished back into the parade.
roar rose from the crowd and there was Miss Illiziproudly displaying her
winners sash and glittering tiara. Only the night before we had witnessed
her coronationthe highlight after selecting the winners from among seventy
finalists from all over the province. Many girls came from Djanetover
21 days camel ride away, wearing, like the eventual winner, their traditional
purple and indigo robes. Others came from Deb Deb with their red and white chiffon
dresses topped with white lace veils.
The girls had shyly ventured down a catwalk, parading a staggering array of silver jewellery appearing to adorn every square inch of their costumes. As much as 10 kilograms of silver weighed down each contestant! Tiers of silver baubles hung from head to waist. Breastplates of silver and solid silver bars hung round the neck and long hoops of silver jewellery garlanded the waist, sometimes reaching almost to the knees. Contestants wore bracelets of solid silveras many as eight on each arm and every available finger displayed an intricately engraved silver ring.
|A few contestants chose turquoise dresses with loops of semi-precious stones and beads. Some displayed shells set on ebony, fastened to strings of black pearls. Tiny coronets of silver, hundreds of years old, were worn around the head. Other girls wore robes of white with sequinned beading, and still others beautiful mint green robes with intricate embroidery. Hair was greased with oil and mixed with sand before being tightly secured in satin sheaths to hang down alongside the silver necklaces. All the girls wore natural makeupkohl around the eyes, indigo for lipstick and beauty marks. The combined effect of the elegance of the young women, their dazzling jewellery and stunning costumes was breathtaking. As each contestant made her way down the catwalk, there was cheer of appreciation from the townsfolk, who had crammed into the town hall for a glimpse of the contestants. This year was the first time that men were allowed to view the Miss Illizi event.|
The festival was a resounding successthanks to the vision of the Wali to develop the forty-sixth anniversary celebrations into a three-day showcase for Illiziand to companies like BP, who had sponsored events for the enjoyment of all. I sincerely hope that this festival will become a regular event, reminding all visitors privileged to witness it of the unique and vibrant traditions of the Sahara.