Berber Women Try to Keep Rug Making Alive, Profitable

. Moroccan Rugs – General Information Morocco’s history, and the story of Moroccan weaving begins with the Berbers, the indigenous people of North Africa who had inhabited Morocco for centuries before the first Arab invasion in the seventh century. Today, the major weaving groups of the Middle Atlas and High Atlas mountains are Berber tribes, many of whom still live much as they did centuries earlier.

While remarkably diverse, Moroccan flatwoven and knotted pile rugs are almost without exception bold in color and lively in pattern. Designs are made up of geometric motifs arranged in seemingly endless variations. Each tribe has its own distinct repertoire of designs and colors significant to the ceremonial and day to day life of the group. These same patterns can be seen in the art forms relating to other areas of tribal life such as in ceramics, architectural decoration, and tattoos worn by Berber women. Although a weaver draws from the vocabulary of designs particular to her tribe, she works at her loom without a diagram or pattern to guide her. As a result, each rug is a unique creation, a celebration both of her tribal identity and her own artistic imagination.
II. Moroccan Rugs and 20th Century Design
The colors of North Africa have been celebrated for centuries by well known fine artists from the west – Delacroix, Matisse, Klee come immediately to mind. Somewhat less widely known but no less significant is the historic connection between Moroccan art, and rugs in particular, and 20th century western design. From Europe and the Bauhaus to 1960’s and 70s American designers like Billy Baldwin, the simple geometric patterns of Moroccan carpets have long been used to enhance sophisticated modern furnishings and interiors. Pile carpets from the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco can be found in well known historic houses such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Charles and Ray Eames Pacific Palisades house in California. The late nineteen nineties have brought about a renewed appreciation for mid-century modernism as well as elements of sixties and seventies style and color. The brightness and warmth of oranges and saffron yellows in Morocco’s High Atlas rugs or the neutral beige ground Beni Ouarain rugs, their thick pile sometimes reminiscent of sixties shag, are still accessible and are being utilized anew in contemporary interiors. With their had spun wool and authentic indigenous character, these one-of-a-kind rugs have an organic quality not found in their factory made counterparts from other areas of the world.

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