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Decolonising Peace Education in Africa

Decolonising Education for Peace in Africa

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The values of reconciliation and peace embedded in the traditional Algerian artistic heritage with its diverse linguistic backgrounds in Algerian society.


Project Introduction 

The DEPA research project, under the guidance of Fella Lahmar in Algeria, explores how Algerian ancestors used art forms as pedagogical tools to promote peace within their communities, emphasizing the values embedded in this cultural heritage across various linguistic groups. 












Algerian elders employed storytelling, poetry, and medihs (traditional melodies) to educate, transmit values, create and recall memories, and preserve their ancestors' traditions. These forms of indigenous knowledge formed a significant part of the DEPA Researcher’s informal upbringing in Algeria, passed down by grandparents who never experienced the formal colonial education system. 

However, colonialism disrupted these forms of knowledge through the inherited formal colonial system of education that marginalised the heritage of Algerian ancestors. Moreover, post-independence, the movement to "de-Frenchify" Algeria through the Arabization policy became emblematic of a deeper, long-standing identity struggle. Within this context, languages such as 'Arabic,' 'Tamazight,' and 'French' are entwined in politically charged debates. The challenge of reclaiming and returning to the 'original culture' has been a contentious issue, placing educational institutions at the forefront of the discourse. 

In this context, the study seeks to address a key question: How can the Algerian Art heritage, passed down through generations, foster an "inter-communal" space that encourages dialogue, imagination, and inclusivity among the Arab-Amazigh speaking communities in Algeria? To provide insights, the research explores the shared knowledge and values for peace as presented in the Algerian Art heritage, focusing on stories, melodies, and poetry. 


Project Methodology 

Algeria Map

Algerian Map, DEPA Research Provinces 

The study was conducted across five provinces in Algeria in May 2023. These included three Northern Algerian provinces: Beni Maoush village, in Béjaïa province, which has a majority of Kabyles – a Tamazight-speaking community; Ain Beida, in Oum El-Bouaghi province, predominantly a Chaouia-Shawiyyah- Tamazight speaking community; and Guelma, as a supplementary site, which mainly comprises Arabic-speaking individuals of mixed ethnic heritage. The study also extended to two provinces in Southern Algeria: Ghardaïa, home to the Mozabites- Tamazight and Shaanbeh-Arabic speaking communities, and Tamanrasset, inhabited by the Tuareg- Tamazight -speaking community. 

Ain Beida, Beni Maoush village, Ghardaïa, Tamanrasset 


Dhib Hamid ben Muhammed. An elder from the Chaoui community in Aïn Beïda discusses the cultural methods of promoting peace within Chaoui culture.

Dhib Hamid ben Muhammed. An elder from the Chaoui community in Aïn Beïda discusses the cultural methods of promoting peace within Chaoui culture. 


The selection of participants and provinces was based on accessibility and the enrichment they could provide regarding the local art heritage related to educating for peace in their communities. 

2 Algerian women speaking to one another

Beni Maoush Kabyle, Kabyle elder: Raid Zohra, Kabylian woman, Béjaïa Province, Kabyle Traditional Attire. Fella Lahmar, DEPA researcher, descends from Guelma Province, Algeria 


To capture the complex relationships of educating for peace across multiple levels - individual, interpersonal, community, national, international, and global - this study adopts Recep Şentürk’s multiplexity framework. This framework was chosen due to its ability to encompass the multifaceted ontological, epistemological, and methodological nuances of examining such a social phenomenon while accounting for its interconnectedness across vertical and horizontal dimensions. 

Bouhafs Bouaamer, President of the Sha’anbeh Foundation for Rooting and Development in Ghardaia (Al-Sha'anba Lilta'seel Wal-Tanmiyah Bi-Ghardaia) 

Bouhafs Bouaamer, President of the Sha’anbeh Foundation for Rooting and Development in Ghardaia (Al-Sha'anba Lilta'seel Wal-Tanmiyah Bi-Ghardaia) 


Saleh bin al-Haj Omar Trishin, an author and a poet, Ghardaïa, Mozabites Community, Cultural Heritage, Traditional Dress 

Saleh bin al-Haj Omar Trishin, an author and a poet, Ghardaïa, Mozabites Community, Cultural Heritage, Traditional Dress 


The research methods employed to address this study’s research question were: 

In-person, one-on-one, in-depth interviews with elders, community members, artists, educators from both lower and higher education sectors, and mosque imams. 

Traditional Kabyle Houses in the Old Village of Beni Maoush, Béjaïa Province 


Jama'ah group (JG) discussions (the assembly or traditional gathering): Functioning similar to focus groups, these discussions held respect for local customs, values, and sensitivities. The format and etiquette of these sessions were tailored to the community's traditions. Each group consisted of 4-7 people. The lead and etiquette of these discussions were tailored to respect local customs, values, and sensitivities. 

Ahmed Ilihoum, Owner of 'café Ennoui ' in Aïn Beïda, Oum El Bouaghi. The café is also dubbed as a personal museum where every corner is filled with various objects reflecting the Chaoui culture. 

Ahmed Ilihoum, Owner of 'café Ennoui ' in Aïn Beïda, Oum El Bouaghi. The café is also dubbed as a personal museum where every corner is filled with various objects reflecting the Chaoui culture. 


Both the individual interviews and JG discussions emphasised the Algerian art heritage as an educational tool for peace. Traditional stories, medihs (traditional melodies), amthal (proverbs), and traditional art objects were used to stimulate further in-depth discussions around peace values within their communities. 

Habibi Muhammed (Tuareg community elder and culture expert), Hilal Mukhtar (Poet), Fatimati Alamine (Imzad player). Imzad players, Khoulene Alamine (mother) and Fatimati Alamine (daughter), Fella Lahmar (Ceremonial Tuareg attire) 


In terms of data generation, based on the participants' informed consent, either audio or video was recorded. All participants underwent a thorough informed consent process, ensuring they fully understood the research objectives, their role in it, and the potential use of their data. Data formats included: 

  • Digital audio recordings of interviews. 
  • Textual transcriptions of individual interviews and group discussions. 
  • Digital video recordings for those consenting to video, capturing their oral presentations and custom traditions. 
  • Digital still images of any art objects subjects chose to share. 

Notes taken by the researcher. 

Museum, Tamanrasset City, Algeria

Museum, Tamanrasset City, Algeria 


Project Highlights 

The DEPA project has been an enlightening exploration for the researcher, illuminating the depths of Algeria's rich cultural heritage. This exploration of ancestral art and traditions has fostered a renewed appreciation for inclusivity and the wealth of diversity that is missed in the researcher’s Algerian formal schooling journey from primary to university. 

Key insights from this research journey include: 

Unity in diversity: Despite the country's vast geographical landscape and apparent identity sensitivities, the exploration revealed foundational values within the art heritage of communities from both North and South, highlighting a shared cultural essence that transcends ethnic and linguistic differences, epitomizing unity in diversity. 

Deep cultural significance: Algerian art heritage in this study, spanning traditional stories, melodies, and poetry, holds significant weight in conveying peace values across communities. This underscores the imperative of preserving and championing ancestors’ knowledge. 

Endangered oral traditions: The study access journey demonstrates how challenging it is to find elders who are still able to share their ancestors’ heritage and community Wisdom. Elders possess a wealth of knowledge that has persisted across generations but remains largely untapped in educational resources. Alarmingly, the risk of losing this invaluable oral heritage grows as these elders pass on, emphasizing the urgency of documentation and preservation. 


Educational Resources 

The project has resulted in a range of diverse educational resources, including music clips, melodies, podcasts, animations, and academic literature. These resources include the following open educational resources that communicate cultural heritage: 

Traditional melodies from Beni Maouche, a Kabyle-speaking commune in northern Algeria in the Béjaïa Province. 

Here is a short podcast of the upcoming work: Amammalandalyas, a traditional legend from the Tuareg community in the Tamanrasset region. 

A sand animation clip narrating the 'Amammalandalyas' story is being produced to cater to both auditory and visual learners. Subtitles will be available in both Arabic and English upon final production. The legend exhibits core values for peace and conflict resolution and leadership, including critical thinking, bravery, respect for life, intelligence, perseverance, wisdom and resourcefulness, suspicion towards violence, honesty and integrity, community and cooperation, empowerment, and justice. 

Clips of traditional Imzad music, featuring the distinct 'Burdah' clip performed by Alamine Khoulen, the most esteemed senior Imzad artist from the Tuareg area in the Tamanrasset region. 

This is an Imzad musical performance of the most renowned “Qasidat al-Burdah” (often known as "al-Burdah" or "Poem of the Mantle"), but the performance does not include words which makes it relevant to all linguistic communities. The al-Burdah was composed in 13th-century Egypt by the Sufi Imam Sharaf al-Din al-Busairi (1212–1295) as a poetic praise of the Prophet Mohammed. Over time, the poem has also been set to music and has been sung by many artists across different Muslim cultures across the world, becoming a significant piece of devotional art within the Islamic tradition. Historically, al-Burdah was first titled "Su’ad Has Departed" by Ka’b ibn Zuhayr in the 7th century C.E., it marked the evolution from pre-Islamic to Islamic poetry (Rijo Lopes da Cunha, 2022). 

See: Rijo Lopes Da Cunha, M. (2022). The Burda: Reweaving the Mantle, Renovating Arab Music Tradition between Egypt and the Arab Levant. Yearbook for Traditional Music, 54(2), 141-164. doi:10.1017/ytm.2022.20 



The study has laid the groundwork for various multimedia outputs, which can have a broader outreach beyond academic circles, including: 

Educational impact: The project's educational resources can be pivotal in teaching younger generations about Algerian diverse cultural heritage and its significance in promoting peace across communities. These resources can be integrated into school curricula or used in extracurricular activities to instil values for peace, conflict resolution, and leadership skills. 

Influence on policy and curriculum: The educational outputs can influence educational curriculum development to consider more diverse indigenous knowledge, art, and pedagogies. This potentially can lead to a more inclusive and holistic education system. 

Cultural preservation: By documenting and sharing the Algerian art heritage, the project contributes to the preservation and revitalization of ancestors’ art heritage and linguistic diversity. This can help combat cultural loss and ensure that these art forms are carried forward by future generations. 

Bridging gaps and promotion of dialogue: By encompassing diverse linguistic communities and regions, the study aims to enhance mutual understanding, foster inter-communal dialogue, and promote unity in diversity. This research positions art as a powerful medium to address contentious topics, identify shared values, and champion peaceful coexistence among Algeria's varied linguistic communities. 


Research “outputs” 

  • Beyond academic publications and the listed educational materials above, the following are currently in production: Traditional Tuareg story, Amamlandeleis, through sand animation film segment: amamlindeleis.mp4

Four short film segments featuring various melodies for spiritual community gatherings from the Kabyle region in Algeria, this is an example (the other 3 segments in the final production process):