Glaswegian author launches folklore book about bringing her Berber routes to Scotland

24-year-old Carina, who is half Scottish half Algerian, published her first collection of Berber folklore tales translated to English, bringing a fascinating oral storytelling tradition close to us.

Carina is a Glasgow-based documentary filmmaker, writer and musician. She was born and raised in Glasgow, although her father is from Algeria. Her new book is titled Machaho, which is a Berber (Kabyle) word for folk tale.

Carina’s Berber Algerian roots, and the glimpse of Berber stories she’d heard from her family over the years, had always fascinated her. When she started researching, Carina found that no English translations of those stories were available.

She hadn´t heard these stories until she asked her family in Algeria, which she confesses to be slightly embarrassed about. It was then that she found herself becoming more interested in what stories might be out there, and how easy it was to ask.

She said: “Outside of Algeria, these stories are very rarely shared. I decided to try and collect some of these stories orally, from my family, and find a way to publish and share them with a wider audience.”

Carina tells us her gran Aiyee is a very big inspiration for the book. “She has raised so many children and grandchildren on her stories. She speaks Berber and I don’t, which has meant our relationship has never really been based on words. It felt really special to translate these stories and keep them alive in my own way. And it has meant I have finally been able to hear them myself.”

Because of the French colonisation of Algeria, many Berbers (including Aiyee) were denied education, so oral storytelling was an essential act of keeping things alive.

Corina thinks both Scottish and Berber cultures have strong connection to folklore; there is a lot of magic and strength in people’s stories. Historically, both cultures are specifically connected to their land and carry a sense of being the underdog.

In collecting these stories Carina wanted her retelling to keep a sense of her writing style as the stories were coming from a personal place. These stories are not a definitive account of Berber folk tales, just one family and one person’s interpretation of them.

Stories passed down through oral storytelling have a very magical sense of uniqueness in how the inaccuracy of the spoken word has transformed them differently in each family, or in each place.

Because of that reason, Carina wanted her book to feel very personal. That’s why she decided to include family photos to accompany the stories. She also wanted the stories to have a contemporary feel so that she could engage more with the readers and show that these stories still have a place in the world nowadays.

“It was also very important to me to feel some community with other Algerian writers and not claim ownership. So, as part of the book, I commissioned works from other half Algerian writers, a poem from Janette Ayachi and an essay on family folklore by Leila Gamaz, “ she says.

Carina felt an excitement in hearing these stories for the first time which felt akin to listening to fairy tales as a child, and she hopes a sense of that joy can translate into her new book.

The book is available for purchase on the author’s website for those who desire to experience this window into Berber culture.