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Issue 37
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The game of Buqala, a women’s ritual in Algerian folk culture: Women asserting themselves through poetry
Issue 37

By Dr. Abdullatif Hanni


The Arab countries, especially Algeria, are fortunate to have abundant folk heritage, most notably literature; Arab nations are known for their love for poetry. They have always strived to preserve their heritage and pass it down through the generations. However, modern city life has left Arabs disconnected from their true heritage, leading them to ignore and forget it.


Children no longer gather around their grandmothers for story time. Television, books and children’s magazines have replaced grandmother’s storytelling, because they are better suited to children’s mentality, psychology, culture and interests. As a result, many folk genres, especially those related to women, are dying out. Al Buqala is one example.


Algeria is rich in authentic ancient heritage that was shaped by many civilisations and cultures. The culture reflects the nature and mentality of Algerian society. Algerian folk heritage is one of the most important resources when one seeks to understand Algerian society and analyse its structure.


Algerian folk arts are related to women and their activities, and women tend to be interested in preserving their culture and heritage through their lifestyles, activities, celebrations, crafts, rituals and literary arts.


Al Buqala is named after the ceramic pots used to store milk, water, soup or incense. Buqala is the diminutive form of Al Buqal. In Amazigh, it is known as ‘Abu Qal’.


Buqala comes in different sizes and shapes. Most traditional homes in villages still use Buqala. They are essential to the Buqala game; no other pots can be used as substitutes.


Buqala is also a type of verbal folk poetry with a long history; it has been passed down by narration and collective memorisation.


The term Buqala is still used because of the game, which spread to the suburbs of northern Algeria. It is solely a women’s game, which requires the use of skill and imagination. Buqala has survived because women have kept it alive.


We conclude that Buqala is an art exclusively for women, who do not allow children to participate because its subjects are solely related to women. It reflects women’s nature, their expectations, the way they present themselves and their beauty. Women use Buqala to depict ‘The Other’, who imposes ethical, social and ethnic constraints and prevents them from expressing their femininity and personalities. This study is an attempt to highlight this issue.