Tin Hinan was an actual historical figure of the 6th century in Algeria. She gathered the tribes from Morocco and Algeria into a nation. There is not much known about her so this is a work of pure fiction. I did try to stick to the ‘facts’ in her journey across the desert with her slave. That was known about Tin Hinan, and her galvanizing power to unite the Berber tribes. That’s about all, though her tomb was found in the Algerian mountains in the 1980’s.
Considering the tribal traditions of any century, what Tin Hinan did in just this venture, leaving her tribe and setting out across these mighty deserts is amazing. Considering the odds of her survival, it is especially amazing.
The Berbers opened the trade routes across northern Africa, and defended those routes from the Arabs. Interestingly enough, Berbers were originally Christian, and resisted Islamic influence into the early 20th century. (Though Islam made great inroads from the 7th century onward.) Between Christianity and Islamic religion, they were closer to the Egyptians in their worship of Ammon and Isis.
The story seemed to weave itself like a rug, knot by knot and color by color. It’s 14 or so chapters and I plan to finish it. I have noticed over the past two years this story has garnered readers on the blog in a consistent way.
One important fact of Berber culture: The Soul resides in the Liver.)
TIN HINAN, Chapter 1, Part 1
I am called Tin Hinan. I had the destiny of a woman ‘rooted in flight’. Even my name means “Nomadic Woman”. Sometimes I forget my birth name before I became Queen. It is now lost in the sands of the Great Desert.
I founded a nation from the stirrings of my womb. This is my story.
I was born in an oasis near what is now called Morocco. My people were nomadic, but if our tribe had a name, we would be Tagelmust, meaning “People of the Veil”. The Arabs, our enemy, rudely called us Twareg, “Abandoned by God”. We now are known as Tuareg, or Berber by the white Europeans. But since I am speaking from my short time of fifty years on this earth and now only spirit, you should know my story and life harkens back to the sixth century. Life was very different then. But men and woman were not so different from now. Hearts are the same.
Our tribe is matriarchal. All things, possessions, are passed down through the women. The men still make the laws, but we women have great power. Nothing is decided until the council of elder women and men meet.
We basically had two classes of Tagelmust people, Imajeren, the nobles, and Iklan, the slaves. There are subgroups in all that, but that’s not important. My family were Imajeren, my father a tribal elder and leader. My mother had great status as the first of his four wives.
I was born in the spring, during lambing time. I was exceptionally tall for my sex, and poems were written by my mother and other women about my hurry to reach up to the stars. That is the reason they gave for my height. I had long, thick black hair and hazel eyes, which was not rare. As I grew to marriageable age, more songs were sung openly around the fires as to my beauty.
Perhaps you wonder when you think of Arabic women with the chador and burkah covering their features, how would you sing to a black sheath of cloth with two dark eyes staring back at you? We, the Berber, are blessed by Ammon and Isis, for The Veiled People only applies to the men! They wear the veil, an indigo dyed cloth that wraps around their heads and covers their faces, with only the eyes and the bridge of their noses exposed. We, the women, carry our faces proudly to the sun, to the wind, and when it comes, the blessed rain. The men are mostly stained a dark blue, like a devil or zar because their sweat makes the dye run from the indigo and stains their faces. They look funny for it does not wash off, but seeps into the skin. So when you marry, you beget children from a Zar-looking creature. Perhaps that is why children are such little devils.
“Aicha, Aicha!” The aunties were calling me in from where I was loafing. I liked to stand at the edge of the oasis, and look at the sea of sand before me. I would think of great spans of water, for some travelers once told me about the great ocean to the north.
I turned and ran towards my mother’s tent. To ignore the aunties would be rude, and besides, they had many surprises and secrets in the folds of their robes.
“You, Aicha! Your mother wants you to come to her, hurry! Here, be a good girl and take this basket.”
I slipped the large basket over my arm and went into the tent side of my mother’s.
She was sitting on the floor of the tent, shelling dried beans. There were other women, most of them my aunts, her sisters, also working on the floor. Our clan was a large one, one of the largest that made up the tribe. Growing up, there were women enough to pull my ears when I was bad and to soothe when I was mournful.
My mother looked up, noticed me standing there and motioned for me to sit down.
“Aicha, you are of the age when you should be married, or at least engaged. Your father and I think it time we look around for a husband for you.”
I knew it! I saw the sly glances of the aunties, and heard the laughter when I passed a group of women. At the river, when I carried down the washing, I got looks and giggles even from those women and girls I didn’t know well. Something was brewing and this time I was the last to know.
“Come, you graceless girl.” My mother’s oldest sister, Aunt Aya called out to me. She reached behind her broad hips and pulled out a packet wrapped in wool. Slowly opening it, she revealed a heavy silver and amber necklace made up of many silver rounds and large amber beads.
It was fun for them, to dress me in the women’s jewelry like I was a child’s doll. But they were serious in their business.
“Hold still, you silly girl. This kohl will poke out your eye if you don’t”.
This from another auntie. My face and hair were fiddled with, and I suffered the blackening of my eyes and their hands twisting my hair into designs.
That day they had their fun, and I emerged from the tent at evening to be walked around the fire to the whistles and comments of the collected tribe. My hair was braided in intricate styles and small silver discs peppered my head like beaten full moons. Heavy silver and wood earrings weighted down my earlobes. I was of course, without a veil, and two women held my hands, leading me around the tribe’s main fire to the sound of drums and the ney flute.
Although I could not marry within my tribe, I was being presented for our tribe’s delight. Grooming for marriage was a ritual and my blushes showed appropriate modesty that evening.