1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kabyles

KABYLES, or Kabail, a confederation of tribes in Algeria, Tunisia, and a few oases of the Sahara, who form a branch of the great Berber race. Their name is the Arabic gabīlat (pl.: gabāil), and was at first indiscriminately applied by the Arabs to all Berber peoples. The part of Algeria which they inhabit is usually regarded as consisting of two divisions—Great Kabylia and Lesser Kabylia, the former being also known as the Kabylia of the Jurjura (also called Adrar Budfel, “Mountain of Snow”). Physically many Kabyles do not present much contrast to the Arabs of Algeria. Both Kabyle and Arab are white at birth, but rapidly grow brown through exposure to air and sunshine. Both have in general brown eyes and wavy hair of coarse quality, varying from dark brown to jet black. In stature there is perhaps a little difference in favour of the Kabyle, and he appears also to be of heavier build and more muscular. Both are clearly long-headed. Some, however, of the purer type of Kabyles in Kabylia proper have fair skins, ruddy complexions and blue or grey eyes. In fact there are two distinct types of Kabyles: those which by much admixture have approximated to Arab and negroid types, and those which preserve Libyan features. Active, energetic and enterprising, the Kabyle is to be found far from home—as a soldier in the French army, as a workman in the towns, as a field labourer, or as a pedlar or trader earning the means of purchasing his bit of ground in his native village. The Kabyles are Mahommedans of the Sunnite branch and the Malikite rite, looking to Morocco as the nearer centre of their religion. Some of the Kabyles retain their vernacular speech, while others have more or less completely adopted Arabic. The best known of the Kabyle dialects is the Zouave[1] or Igaouaouen, those speaking it having been settled on the northern side of the Jurjura at least from the time of Ibn Khaldun; it is the principal basis of Hanoteau’s Essai de grammaire kabyle (Paris, 1858). Unlike their southern brethren, the Kabyles have no alphabet, and their literature is still in the stage of oral transmission, for the most part by professional reciters. Hanoteau’s Poésies populaires de la Kabylie du Jurjura (Paris, 1867) gives the text and translation of a considerable number of historical pieces, proverbial couplets and quatrains, dancing songs, &c.

Consult General L. L. C. Faidherbe and Dr Paul Topinard, Instructions sur l’anthropologie de l’Algérie (Paris, 1874); Melchior Joseph Eugène Daumas, Le Sahara algérien (Paris, 1845) and Mœurs et coutumes de l’Algérie (1857); De Slane’s translation of Ibn Khaldun’s Hist. des Berbères (Algiers, 1852); Aucapitaine, Les Kabyles et la colonie de l’Algérie (Paris, 1864) and Les Beni M’zab (1868); L. J. A. C. Hanoteau and A. Letourneux, La Kabylie et les coutumes kabyles (Paris, 1893) ; Charmetant, in Jahrbücher der Verbreitung des Glaubens (1874); Masqueray, Formation des cités . . de l’Algérie (1886); Dugas, La Kabylie et le peuple kabyle (Paris, 1878); Récoux, La Démographie de l’Algérie (Paris, 1880); J. Liorel, Races berbères: les Kabyles (Paris, 1893); MacIver and Wilkin, Libyan Notes (1901).

  1. From the enlistment of Kabyles speaking the Zouave dialect the Zouave regiments of the French army came to be so called.