The recent Wiki Indaba 2023 Conference in Agadir witnessed a pivotal moment — the launch of the Standard Moroccan Amazigh Wikipedia took center stage. The event also featured the first in-person edit-a-thon, workshop, and presentation conducted in the Amazigh language within the Wikimedia movement. Let’s delve into the details of this remarkable moment to understand how it could mark the beginning of a significant series of achievements for Wikipedia and the Moroccan Amazigh community on Wikimedia projects.
Standard Moroccan Amazigh Language
Standard Moroccan Amazigh is a standardized language regulated by the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture (IRCAM) in Morocco, amalgamating features from Tashelhit, Central Atlas Tamazight, and Tarifit—the three major Amazigh varieties in the country. This standardized form is utilized for educational purposes, official communications, and sustained written expression.
Since its official recognition in Morocco in 2011, Standard Moroccan Amazigh has progressively integrated into various aspects of life in the country. It has found its way into television and radio broadcasts, educational institutions, and other spheres.
Efforts to promote the Amazigh language and culture have extended into the digital realm, with various projects incorporating Amazigh into their platforms. Notably, Facebook has contributed to this initiative by adding Amazigh as one of its user interface languages.
Launching the Amazigh language on Wikipedia
On November 1st, the Standard Moroccan Tamazight Wikipedia, written in Tifinagh script, was officially approved by the Language Committee and subsequently launched its dedicated website on November 7th. This marks a significant milestone for the Tamazight language in the realm of digitalization.
The project had been in the Wikimedia Incubator since April 2012, with the initial request for this version submitted on meta in 2015. Although there was sporadic activity over the years, it lacked continuity until a group of volunteers united to transform the project into a reality. The collaborative effort and coordination commenced in April 2023, focusing on meeting all the necessary requirements, beginning with the initiation of new articles. This also involved having a well-formed language code, completing the translation of most important messages, and the engagement of a consistent and substantial number of contributors each month.
Lhoussine Bentayfaste, an administrator on Amazigh Wikipedia, underscored the collaborative nature of this initiative, highlighting Wikipedia as a vital tool for promoting the Amazigh language digitally. He emphasized,
“Wikipedia is considered one of the projects that can help advance the Amazigh language in the digital world, as it is one of the most prominent sources of information that people visit daily, knowing also that people have become more dependent on the Internet to obtain information than on books. For all these reasons, we made the decision to work on developing the Amazigh version of Wikipedia to advance our language.”
He also noted the project’s exceptional acceptance among Amazigh speakers, stating,
“To be honest, the project has received unparalleled acceptance among people who speak the Amazigh language, as well as among academic people.”
Bringing together the members of this volunteer Amazigh contributors’ group proved to be a challenging task. The Incubator platform, known for its complexity, posed difficulties for beginners. Additionally, individuals proficient in Standard Moroccan Tamazight, such as teachers, students, and translators, often faced time constraints in their daily lives, making it challenging for them to contribute to an open encyclopedia project like Wikipedia.
Wiki Indaba 2023: Introducing Amazigh Culture and Language to African Community
From November 3rd to 5th, 2023, Agadir hosted the 7th edition annual African Wikimedia conference—Wiki Indaba, organized by the Wikimedia Morocco User Group. The event aimed to build capacity for African Wikimedians, foster the growth of coverage and involvement of Africa in Wikimedia projects, and connect African Wikimedians both within the continent and in the diaspora. Taking place at Les Dunes d’Or Hotel, the conference provided a platform to turn ideas into action, contributing to the advancement of Wikimedia initiatives in the African context.
As one of the prominent Amazigh-speaking cities in the country, Agadir, situated in the Souss region in the heart of Morocco, is renowned for its distinctive Tashelhit culture and stands out as one of the most densely populated areas of Amazigh speakers in Morocco. Often referred to as the capital of Amazigh culture, Agadir has consistently hosted numerous festivals celebrating Amazigh heritage, including The Amazigh New Year, The Bilmawen Festival, the Issni N’Ourgh International Festival, among others. A wise choice by the Wikimedia Morocco User Group that wanted to introduce the Amazigh component to the African Wikimedia Community and to promote the diversity of the Moroccan culture.
The promotion of the Amazigh language during Wiki Indaba was noteworthy. It began with the conference logo featuring three languages: Amazigh, Arabic, and English. Additionally, posts on Wiki Indaba’s social media were translated into four languages—Amazigh, English, French, and Arabic as Loubna Ait Oumasste, member of Wiki Indaba 2023 Communication committee, said
“ The conference was an opportunity to shed light on Moroccan culture and introduce it at all its stages. It was also an opportunity to introduce participants from different countries to the Amazigh language through publications that were published on a daily basis during the conference and an introductory video about the city of Agadir and Morocco. “.
The commitment to linguistic diversity extended beyond the conference sessions to a social event held in Sidi Ouassay, a small village in the south of Agadir. The event included a captivating performance of the Ahouach dance, a popular Amazigh dance in the region.
The First In-person Amazigh Wikipedia Workshop
The Wiki Indaba Agadir conference witnessed a historic moment with the introduction of Standard Moroccan Amazigh to Wikipedia and the first In-person Amazigh Workshop and first meeting of the Amazigh Wikipedia community.
Brahim Essaidi, an administrator of the Amazigh Wikipedia and the facilitator of the workshop spearheading this effort, expressed the significance of this milestone, stating,
“ I presented a workshop session about editing Wikipedia in Amazigh for the first time at a Wiki Indaba conference. This project was approved by the language committee and launched two days after the conference. It is a great pleasure for me and my community. “
The workshop at Wiki Indaba Agadir commenced with a global definition of Wikimedia and its projects, along with providing basic knowledge about editing Wikipedia. The goal was to empower participants with the necessary knowledge and tools to contribute effectively to Amazigh content on Wikipedia.
Hamza Goulahyane, an enthusiastic editor and participant, shared insights into the workshop’s impact, stating,
“It is an honor for me to be present with you in this workshop presented by Mr. Brahim Essaidi, which addressed the topic of Standard Amazigh Wikipedia. Mr. Brahim taught us how to write an article on Wikipedia and how to create a personal account.”
He also expressed his enthusiasm for the Amazigh Wikipedia community, noting,
“In truth, this work would not have come to fruition without some contributors who did not talk about their work, but rather gave their work the opportunity to talk about them.”
After a successful two-hour workshop, where over 15 new editors gained insights into Wikipedia, followed by a two-hour meetup for discussions among participants, Brahim Essaidi expressed his willingness to conduct another Amazigh Wikipedia workshop. The objective is to further engage the Amazigh Wikipedia community, aiming to make knowledge accessible to Amazigh people in their language.
“ We received a lot of congratulations from the Amazigh language and culture enthusiasts, and many of them expressed their interest in contributing to this project, so I will present a session about editing Wikipedia on November 17 at the Ayyuz Academy center in Hay Dakhla, Agadir city.”
He also announced that Amazigh-speaking media is beginning to cover the Amazigh Wikipedia project.
“ I have been invited to discuss the launch of the Amazigh Wikipedia on the regional radio station in Agadir. This marks a significant step in raising awareness about the project and informing people about its goals.”
In conclusion, the launch of the Standard Moroccan Amazigh Wikipedia at the Wiki Indaba Agadir conference marks a pivotal moment for linguistic diversity and cultural representation within the Wikimedia movement. This milestone not only celebrates the introduction of the Amazigh language into the digital sphere but also symbolizes the collaborative efforts and dedication of volunteers in promoting cultural heritage. Despite challenges, such as technical complexities and sustaining contributions, the enthusiasm and interest from participants demonstrate a promising path forward. As a repository of knowledge and cultural identity, the Amazigh Wikipedia stands as a testament to inclusivity, inviting continued engagement and exploration of diverse voices within the global movement. This achievement signifies a significant step towards an inclusive digital landscape, echoing the ethos of “Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia that Speaks All Languages“.
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