By: Amazigh Informatie Centrum
The poet, musician, and above all Amazigh activist Mohamed Chacha was born on 15 August 1955 in Ixef n Cebdan, Qabu Yawa, North Morocco. As a teenager, Chacha worked as a fisherman in the port of Qabu Yawa. Here he was fired for demanding better working conditions together with other fishermen.
At a young age he became aware of the dictatorship in his native country. His first confrontation with the regime of the late King Hassan II was during a student protest. He was arrested and beaten. This eventually resulted in the suspension of school. At the age of 22 (in 1977) he fled to the Netherlands to apply for political asylum there.
Until his death he lived and worked in Amsterdam, where he was active in the radical Moroccan movement Ila Alamam (Forward) and the Moroccan Workers’ Committee in the Netherlands (KMAN). In the end, he left these organisations for ideological reasons. Chacha always remained involved in various human rights organisations. In addition to his activism, as an autodidact he was mainly concerned with literature, language and culture.
In the 1980s he was one of the most prominent members of the young Amazigh movement in the Netherlands. It consisted of artists, poets, writers and students. This inspired Chacha to write in Tamazight after he published his first books in Arabic. In the 1990s he founded the Izouran Foundation (roots) with the aim of publishing Riffin literature. Chacha also supported linguist Roel Otten in his lessons in Arabic and Tamazight by reading from his work to improve the speech and listening skills of his students.
Both his songs and his books sing and describe the fate of the workers, women and other marginalized and oppressed groups. Chacha was a passionate and active person. He followed a series of theatre courses and played in various plays, as well as writing his own plays. He took part in cultural events and political meetings throughout Europe. He did this as a spectator, performer and troublemaker. Chacha played lute and sang Izran (Amazigh poems). He also made radio and TV programmes for the Pirate Radio and Amazigh TV, among others. His programmes were mainly about art, culture and politics.
Back in Morocco
For political reasons, Chacha was not allowed to enter his native country for a long time. After the death of Hassan II in 1999, he returned to Morocco to see for himself what the country was like.
In the first years of Mohamed VI’s regime he still had some faith in the promises of the new king. He became disappointed when it became clear to him that a democratic Morocco among the Moroccan Alawites could not be achieved. In the last ten years of his life he joined the Rif movement that advocates a free Rif republic as it was founded by Abdelkrim el Khattabi in 1921. Self-determination for the Rif was his last political demand.
Chacha was critical of religions, especially Islam, the religion he inherited from his parents. He studied the ancient islamic writings such as the Koran and the Hadith (traditions). In his surroundings he often discussed the contradictions in these ‘holy’ texts. On his Facebook page he regularly posted verses from the Koran and stories from the origins of Islam that he did not understand himself or that he found to be in conflict with human rights. These included the marriage of minors, the rights of women and the actions of the prophet Mohamed and his companions.
Last years of life
In 2004, Chacha underwent a lung transplant. His doctors had predicted that he would be able to live with those lungs for another eight years, which eventually turned out to be twelve years. On his sick bed in Amsterdam he continued to write his latest novel: Hdem bna (Hdem bna) (Break down, build up), which he was unable to finish. He continued to work on it until three days before his death. He died on Wednesday 29 June 2016 in Amsterdam at the age of 61.
Chacha was publicly buried in his native village, where women were also present, which is contrary to the Islamic customs in Morocco where only men are allowed to participate in funeral processions. This made Chacha an activist even after his death.
- Al-Maghrib Al jadid 1979, poetry. “The New Morocco”.
- Qasaid Al Fuqaraa 1985, poetry. “Poems of the poor”.
- Ayna Al Amal 198, poetry, “Where is hope”.
- Kalimaat Mutamarrida 199?, poetry, “Rebellious words”.
- Raz, Thuɛayantt d tawra zi yitaan 1995, poetry. Hunger, nudity and flight from the dogs.
- Reẓ ṭṭabu ad d teffeɣt tfukt 1997, roman. “Break the taboo, and the sun will shine”.
- Ajḍiḍ umi yitwagg celwaw 1998, novel. “The blind bird”.
- Cway zi tibbuhelya ɛad war twid, 1999, poetry. “Unfinished folly”.
- Abrid ɣer yezran 2000, study on Izran. “The road to songs”.
- Tuf teqqen 2015, novel. “It’s stuck”.
- Tarwa n umadal 2015, children’s book. “Sons of the world”.
- Aṛaji 2016, poetry. “The waiting”.
- Tayri n tayri 2016, novel. “Love of love”.
- Hdem bna 2016, novel. “Abort, build up” (not yet published).
- Hunger, nudity and flight from the dogs: rebellious verses, 1993. (translation of Raz, thuɛayantt d tawra zi yitaan, 1995).
Translated by Najat M.