Trust Your Intuition I: A warrior woman gathers together with other women to support each other as grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and sisters, and create safety in their families and communities
This woman’s image was on a French “cabinet card” which were popular in the 1890-1910’s. She is identified as “Jeune Femme Juive” a young Jewish woman, and the location is Morocco. In this image I imagined a woman who is grounded in women’s traditions and sacred practices. I see wisdom, perseverance, and compassion. I couldn’t help but think of the wonderful book “The Red Tent” by Anita Diament.
At the time of this photograph, the Moroccan Jewish community was the largest Jewish community in North Africa. The status of Moroccan Jewish women was affected by the patriarchal order and social changes that came with economic development, urbanization, and colonization. Marriage and motherhood were strictly defined roles. However, the spread of formal schooling in the 1860’s brought literacy to women in all socio-economic groups which greatly expanded women’s participation in the work force, and brought changes to family relations and gender roles.
Part historical and part mythical, the tale of a powerful Woman Warrior has become part of the collective story of the people of this area. Born as a Jewish Berber North African woman, Dihya al Kahina was the warrior-queen and seer that led her people against the Arab Invasion of North Africa in the 7th century. The Berbers in their own indigenous language are known as the Imazighen people and the Amazigh, “the Free People”. Dihya al Kahina has been described by historian Nahum Slouschz as “fair as a horse, strong as a wrestler, a true desert woman, healthy and fast on her feet, an excellent rider and a shooter who never misses”. Legends suggest she was also a Seer who could communicate with birds who would warn her of advancing armies. Even though she was finally defeated after many victories, including freeing thousands of slaves, her resistance continued to serve as a model and inspiration for future freedom fighters. In the present day, the image of the Kahina is often used by Berber activists to represent their strength, persistence, and resistance to any forces that would diminish their people. Her story was also adopted by feminists and by militant women who fought against colonization and for women’s rights.
For more reading on this topic:
Mizrachi, Beverly. "Morocco: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries." Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women. 31 December 1999. Jewish Women's Archive.
Derman, Ushi (2018, October 14). Museum of the Jewish People.
Mark, J. J. (2018, March 16). Kahina. World History Encyclopedia. https://www.worldhistory.org/Kahina/
Becker, Cynthia (2015, October 26). Images & Intersections/ Visual Culture