AMMAN - Colourful, thematic performances and music on Friday marked the launch of a new academy designed to preserve and promote Circassian heritage.
Performing for a full house at Al Hussein Cultural Centre in Ras Al Ain, the recently established International Circassian Cultural Academy (ICCA) and its dance troupe the “Highlanders” entertained an audience of over 300 people with dances and movements synchronised to lively music.
During the ceremony, attended by HRH Prince Ali, patron of the event, and HRH Princess Rym Ali, ICCA President Laila Khwaj said the new academy seeks to preserve the culture, heritage and language of the Circassian people.
The ICCA, headquartered in the Jandaweel neighbourhood in western Amman, will serve as a hub for different activities to acquaint young Circassians with their traditions, in addition to providing them with vocational skills, according to organisers.
"The academy will hold Circassian language courses, lectures on history and traditions, in addition to specialised courses in Circassian music and sewing Circassian outfits," Khwaj told The Jordan Times over the phone yesterday.
She noted that the academy will also offer specialised courses in lighting, design and sound engineering to provide young Circassians with employable skills.
The ICCA, a not-for-profit society registered at the Ministry of Culture, includes 17 founding members in addition to 152 young performers and trainers from the Highlanders dance troupe, all of whom are volunteers.
Tareq Yazaw, a troupe member who started Circassian dancing at the age of 12, said he joined the academy out of his "passion for Circassian dancing and music".
"Since I was a child I watched Circassian dancers on stage in front of an audience. I wanted to be like themة it is the greatest thing," the 22-year-old said.
Yazaw said he is hopeful that the ICCA will raise young Circassians' awareness on their history and language.
"Dancing is not the only thing in the Circassian culture; we have a rich history and language. You can't call yourself Circassian unless you learn your language and history," Yazaw said.
Circassians, who call themselves Adyghe, are an indigenous people of the northwest Caucasus region. Today, only a minority live in their divided ancestral homeland, mainly in the three republics of the Russian Federation: Kabardino Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia and Adygheya. The majority were forced to migrate to the Ottoman Empire following the 19th century Russian-Circassian war, according to www.circassianworld.com.
The first wave of Circassian immigrants who were mainly of Shapsugh extraction, arrived in Jordan in 1878 and took refuge in the old ruins of Amman. These were followed by the Kabardians, who settled in Amman, Jerash (1885), Sweileh (1905) and Ruseifa (1909), and the Abzakh and Bzhedugh, who established settlements in Wadi Seer (1880) and Naur (1900).
Unofficial figures quoted by various members of the community place the Circassian population in Jordan at between 80,000 and 100,000.
By Hana Namrouqa/ The Jordan Times
**A traditional Circassian performance marks the launch of the International Circassian Cultural Academy on Friday (Petra photo)