A study of women and musical heritage in Qadah in northwest Tunisia
By Nawal Jalali, Tunisia
The village of Qadah in northwest Tunisia is around 250km from Tunis and 90km south of Al Kaf city. Qadah is situated between the city of Al Kalaa Khasbah, (the Fertile Fort, which was known as the Barren Fort pre-Independence), and the city of Kalaat Sinan, [Sinan Fort, which was known as Kalaat Al Asnam (Idols’ Fort) and also Kalaat Al Sikkah], which is 15km from Qadah. Qadah borders Algeria.
Qadah is a small village surrounded by agricultural land and mountains. Most of the inhabitants are peasants who sow seeds and tend livestock. They live a simple life, much as the Amazigh did before them. Cultural heritage was their only form of entertainment. Qadah’s proximity to Algeria enriched its cultural heritage, including its celebrations.
Qadah’s cultural heritage, which consists primarily of folk songs, helps to link the past and the present. Thanks to narrators, this heritage has survived unchanged. Hasan Hanafi said that heritage is everything from the past that is passed down to our current civilisation. This heritage is passed down to us with all its customs and traditions, and it tells us how people used to live, celebrate and mourn.
Most of Qadah’s folk songs are associated with real tales with historical references and fictional stories. So the songs, whether vernacular or classical, whether based on a historical incident or a fictional story, reflect people’s lives.
When we discuss folk songs, we must take collective memory into account. The songs have various functions; for instance, they convey passions and emotions.
A place is distinguished by its customs, traditions and cultural features. In Qadah, many customs and traditions are centred around weddings and celebrations. ‘Najmah’, which was performed during weddings and circumcisions, was one of the most important celebrations in Qadah and other areas.