Saturday, 30 August 2014

Bayyen - between distinctly

Ain Fezza's Grotto - Tlemcen

In the net that a language weaves, and in the concepts woven into that net, giving shape to the pattern, you can find antonyms. Antonyms, carried by a word, represent a meaning that faces another and stands opposite to it. Like a spatial location, top/bottom, a physical attribute, tall/short, a time stamp, before/after, an abstract, beginning/end. Each word-vessel is separate from its opposite and is spelt differently.

Among the group 'antonyms', there is the peculiar category of auto-antonyms. Peculiar because the same word carries two opposite meanings, both inside a word with the same spelling. There is no graphic difference, no visible identity for each. In English, before both means in front of (I am here before you) and, well... before (have you ever thought about this before?).

Auto-antonyms are absolutely fascinating. Fascinating because they point to and illustrate the lexical extent a word can reach. This category alone points to how complex reality can be, a space in the universe where all is far from black or white.

I have come to realise that Algeria is full of auto-antonyms. The more I travel, the more I find that these auto-antonyms are everywhere in the country - good news as this indicates the Algerian network is a lot more stable, unified and deeply so, than the media and ethno-lore like to make believe.

It isn't that their presence is itself an oddity, I am struck by how many there are. And they aren't just concepts, but people and places standing at once for one thing and its contrary:

Post-colonisation official halls located in colonisation's official halls. A Capital, the centre and gathering place of the nation, who deplores it is the centre and gathering place of the nation. Unemployed individuals who work, employed individuals who don't. Wild imports. One export. A national call for the old to come back. A national call for the young to get lost. Desires for recognition. Giving recognition to no one but one's mum. Holler in public to move forward. Yells in private to remain static. Hospital gardens used as private agricultural space. Agricultural land used as garbage space. Garbage used for selfies. Selfies sent privately for no-sex-dating to begin sex messaging. Men who want their girlfriends to sleep with them outside marriage and then call them whores. Girls who want society to let them sexually emancipate while asking to be traded at the highest mahar rate. Women with admittedly no libido who are romantic masochists. Media that misinforms. Misinformation that reveals purpose. Purpose in the media. Anonymous personae whose real identities are known by all. Groups who reject the claning system while creating clans to group. Francophones who don't speak French. Derjaphones who think they don't speak a language. Kabylophones who think they speak Tamazight. Tamazight made to stand for a singular. The singular L'Algerien used to represent a plural. The plural is one. The singular is ordinary. I could go on.

When oppositions are so at odds, and significance is so devoid of meaning, what happens to the vessel that carries them all. Does it explode and break loose? Does it implode, become a galaxy and expand? Does it move on to the next level of transformation like a Pokemon?

The Arabic root بين bayyen can both mean between and clear, distinct. I've often wondered how can something be both in the midst of elements, shadowed or enclosed between at least two spaces yet be so distinct as to be clear. Perhaps this is exactly where Algeria is situated: بين bayyen, between distinctly, until all sides open away... and we emerge.


Eva said...

Excellent article! :)

Nadia Ghanem said...

Thank you :D !