The Moroccan Rug Loom is a social institution in Berber culture. Women, from all generations, gather around the Loom to give use to idle hands while also providing a venue to socialise. For those to take time to observe, the Berber Loom has all the makings of a soap opera or novel. The Loom sees the goods times and the bad, bears witness to the birth and fruition of hopes and dreams, and also reconciliation for those dreams that wither and fade away. It’s where scandals emerge, schemes are plotted and business is done. It’s where advice is handed out and concerns are voiced. The Loom has a special place in Berber society, and over the years myself and my like-minded colleagues have spent much time around the Loom while doing business, and we have heard it all.
Battle Hymn of the Berber Mother,
While Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother might be about harsh Chinese parenting techniques to raise “successful” children, the Battle Hymn of the Berber Mother is about rising strong and resourceful women, able to lead a family – especially as their nomadic culture sees the men away with their flocks for periods of time.
This story comes from the Boujad region - famous for its Boujad Rugs
A critical choice in any persons life is the life partner they choose, and Berber parents and grandparents have endless “advice” to give, which is often not as welcome as they would like it to be. We have seen eye-rolling, groans and less than gentle cease and desist requests…but the best has to be to one rather imaginative and resourceful woman.
We can imagine after years of torment; she had been brewing a plan. Unbeknownst to her elders – she had met a man (whom she would later wed) but understandably decided she didn’t want the grand inquisition and so kept quiet. However, one day at the loom, the conversation turned to suitors yet again. The girl cried out “is there nobody who will save me from this torment”, at which point in burst the man of her dreams to carry her away, like a knight in shining armour, complete with horse waiting outside, and off they rode in a fit of hysterics. And thus, Ayman was introduced to the family...A few hours later.
The Shopping List
This story comes from the M'rirt Region - famous for their contemporary M'rirt Rugs
Sometimes a Berber craftswomen will make a rug to sell at market so they can get something they want. We have often been given shopping lists that a woman would like from Marrakesh in exchange for her next rug, and we try to oblige. Some of the more challenging lists include illustrious home-makers requests for specific materials, a Javanese Foot Bath and exotic foods from far flung places so they can taste. The most embarrassing, for us at least, is being asked to get certain bedroom stimulants that someone had heard about and sitting through the ongoing debate about it.
This story comes from the Azilal region - famous for their Azilal Rugs
Sometimes bizarre things happen. One time we were in a remote camp, sitting in a one room hut with a window on either wall, when suddenly a row of sheep started to jump through the window on one side, run over to the other window and jump through that. I suppose it’s true what some say – The grass is greener on the other side.
This is one of our favourite stories and comes from a rural Beni Ourain village, a region famous for their Beni Ourain Rugs.
We had placed a bet with the village that if they could get our nephew to be photographed in a dress on a horse we would pay handsomely, as a joke, never expecting anything. A few months later we got a photo from a friend of ours who had just been to the village with indeed, our Nephew, unmistakably on a horse in a rather fetching outfit, looking somewhat worried. It turns out that when they had seen his mule in the distance, the men rode off to the hills to work (it was shearing season). The young women of the village spent the day cooing over this strapping man from afar, and he rather enjoyed that. But come towards the end of the day, when the horns were sounded to announce the return of the men, the elders came rushing in to say – to the effect of “quick, he must hide, otherwise the bogeyman leader of the men will surely do something unpleasant for flirting with his daughter”. Some more women rush in to whip our poor Nephew into such a frenzy that he did indeed put on a disguise – which so happened to be a fetching dress – and then prepare to leave the village on a horse.
Fortunately, he didn’t get very far when the men caught up with him and had a very hearty night. To this day I am very careful going to that village because I expect a carefully planned revenge prank to be sprung one day.
At Benisouk, we take pride in the relationships we build with our artisan families. It is through having these relationships that we believe we get the best quality rugs from our artisan families, while being able to contribute to these remote, rural communities and support them through trading rugs. Every rug has a story behind it, a story of a maker, their family and their community, and some of that spirit is imbued in every rug we sell.