During the French regime, Algerian culture was largely suppressed in an attempt by the colonisers to supplant it with their own. However, since independence, the government has made an effort to strengthen the native Berber, Arabic, and Islamic culture by giving money to open handicraft centres and by encouraging the traditional arts of rug-making, pottery, embroidery and jewellery-making. The National Institute of Music revives music, dance and folklore from the ancient Arabic and Moorish traditions. There is a national film company as well, which produces most Algerian movies.
Algeria's architecture is interesting and varied. Since the country has always been seen as a crossroads between east and west, it has seen many different cultural and architectural influences over the years. In ancient times, Algeria was a major control point and this meant that the major military powers of the time would do their utmost to gain control over it. As a result, Algeria has seen Phoenician, Roman, Vandal, Byzantine, Arab, Turk and French invasion and subsequent influence.
With each conquest, new buildings where constructed and changes where made to government. Whilst not all these ancient cultures have a significant notable bearing on the architecture in Algeria today, there are a significant few who have. The most notable is that of the Arab invasions which has perhaps had the most lasting and extensive effect. There are, however, signs of other cultures all over the country – from Phoenician road signs to ancient Roman ruins or French-speaking Arabs.
The town of Timgad features a number of beautiful and important Roman ruins. The ruins are well preserved due to the naturally dry Algerian atmosphere and you will be able to see delightful mosaics, an amphitheatre and a number of other artefacts. Other interesting architecture in Algeria features French-colonial style fortresses, unique rounded mud-huts in rural areas and ancient colossal Arab-styled homes. Mosques and other religious buildings also tend to show interesting trends in architecture.
Modern Algerian literature, split between Arabic and French, has been strongly influenced by the country's recent history. Famous novelists of the 20th century include Mohammed Dib, Albert Camus and Kateb Yacine, while Assia Djebar is widely translated. Among the important novelists of the 1980s were Rachid Mimouni, later vice-president of Amnesty International, and Tahar Djaout, murdered by an Islamist group in 1993 for his secularist views. In philosophy and the humanities, Jacques Derrida, the father of deconstruction, was born in El Biar in Algiers. Malek Bennabi and Frantz Fanon are noted for their thoughts on decolonisation. Augustine of Hippo was born in Tagaste (modern-day Souk Ahras); and Ibn Khaldun, though born in Tunis, wrote the Muqaddima while staying in Algeria. Algerian culture has been strongly influenced by Islam, the main religion. The works of the Sanusi family in pre-colonial times, and of Emir Abdelkader and Sheikh Ben Badis in colonial times, are widely noted. The Latin author Apuleius was born in Madaurus (Mdaourouch), in what later became Algeria.
Traditional crafts include knotted and woven carpets made from wool or goat hair; basket-weaving; pottery, silver jewellery; intricate embroidery; and brassware. Algerian painters, like Mohamed Racim or Baya, attempted to revive the prestigious Algerian past prior to French colonisation, at the same time that they have contributed to the preservation of the authentic values of Algeria. In this line, Mohamed Temam, Abdelkhader Houamel have also returned through this art, scenes from the history of the country, the habits and customs of the past and the country life. Other new artistic currents including the one of M'hamed Issiakhem, Mohammed Khadda and Bachir Yelles, appeared on the scene of Algerian painting, abandoning figurative classical painting to find new pictorial ways, in order to adapt Algerian paintings to the new realities of the country through its struggle and its aspirations. Mohammed Khadda and M'hamed Issiakhem have been notable in recent years.
The Algerian musical genre best known abroad is raï, a pop-flavoured, opinionated take on folk music, featuring international stars such as Khaled and Cheb Mami. In Algeria itself, raï remains the most popular, but the older generation still prefer shaabi while the tuneful melodies of Kabyle music, exemplified by Idir, Ait Menguellet, or Lounès Matoub, also have a wide audience. For more classical tastes, Andalusi music, brought from Al-Andalus by Morisco refugees, is preserved in many older coastal towns.
Although raï is welcomed and praised as a glowing cultural emblem for Algeria, there was time when raï’s come across critical cultural and political confliction with Islamic and government policies and practices, post-independence. Thus the distribution and expression of raï music became very difficult. However, the government abruptly reversed its position in mid-1985. In part, this was due to the lobbying of a former liberation army officer turned pop music impresario, Colonel Snoussi, who hoped to profit from raï if it could be mainstreamed. In addition, given both nations’ relations, Algerian government was pleased with the music’s growing popularity in France. Although the music is ore widely accepted on the political level, it still faces conflicts with the populace of Islamic faith in Algeria.
As with all cultures, Algerian folklore plays a vital role in society. Folklore refers to the traditions, beliefs, practices, tales and myths of Algeria's people that have been passed on orally. Algeria's folklore will give you much insight into the life, way of thinking and perceptions of the country's residents. Folklore in Algeria encompasses the music, traditional dance, stories and other aspects of life. A lot of Algeria's tales come from the Berbers of the Kabyle region and describe their view of creation and various myths.