Well worth a read in the current edition of World of Interiors magazine is an article entitled ‘Menage and Menagerie’ featuring a traditional Berber home in the High Atlas Mountains, near Taroudant and some fantastic photography by Roland Beaufre.
The home of El Habib and Fatima has been constructed entirely from natural materials found in the mountains, with rooms arranged around a central courtyard in traditional Moroccan style. The courtyard contains the building’s one and only tap, where the family do the laundry and washing up. The whole structure is supported by twisted branches from the Argan tree, well known for producing the famous Argan oil now used widely in cooking, cosmetic products and for medicinal purposes. The family receive visitors in the main reception room, dotted with palm stools arranged around a low round table, to eat and drink tea.
Man and beast live in harmony in traditional Berber homes, a hole in the floor providing light and ventilation for the cows kept in the basement below, who in turn provide a natural source of heat to the occupants upstairs. Peacocks are kept and stay indoors during the day and guard the house outside at night. Dogs, however, are always kept outside. Donkeys even have their own doorway!
A 1950’s space, with seating arranged around the walls of the room and soft, pastel coloured plaster walls, has the addition of a brightly coloured Boucherouite rag rug.
You can read the full article and the interview with the family by Marie-France Boyer in May’s Edition of World of Interiors. Photography credit: Roland Beaufre.
With a wide spectrum of colours available, and the ability to specify your own size and even the design, modern Beni Ouarain rugs are becoming increasingly popular. Using wool from sheep kept at high elevations (thick and soft) Berber women weave these rugs on vertical looms, in exactly the same way as they have been made for centuries. Each rug can take at least one month to complete, and is washed and dried in the sun many times to achieve its characteristic soft and silky texture. The texture improves with each washing.
Our partner, a family business in Marrakech, Bazar du Sud, have their own workshop in the Anti Atlas region, an area of rocky outcrops and small villages, where their workforce arrive every morning to produce, for them exclusively, their own designs and bespoke orders. They travel the long journey into the mountains regularly to check on orders and to transport completed pieces back to Marrakech. If you would like to commission a custom made Beni rug, or would like to see more of our stock in Marrakech, please email us at email@example.com. We will be happy to help.
Morocco is the country where most Berber people live today. Their origin is not really known and neither is the origin of the name Berber. Recent research suggests that the Berber people once populated the whole of North Africa until Arab immigration drove them out of the Eastern regions. We now describe all tribal and village carpets from Morocco as Berber even though the tribe may now speak Arabic.
Berber carpets generally have a coarse quality. They are creations of rustic folk art by women living with their families in villages or as nomads. They are woven for their own use, as bedding or blankets, or to decorate their homes for special occasions such as a wedding. They are prized possessions but if cash is needed, a carpet is taken to a local souk to be sold.
Whilst weaving, the lower part of the carpet is rolled and disappears from sight, so the weaver must rely on her creativity to continue her work, using tradition but also her imagination. The symbolism of the Berber carpet is the expression of a primitive fertility cult, originating from remote early cultures. There is no other form of artisan art in which this still survives to this day.
A weaver will not generally be aware of the meanings of the symbols she uses, simply saying that her mother or grandmother used the same ones. However, we do know that the main ‘female’ symbols in Berber carpets are the lozenge, the chevron and the X shape. The eight pointed star, known as ‘Solomon’s Star’ also belongs to the feminine fertility symbols. Maternity is the most important aspect of a Berber woman’s life. ‘Male’ symbols are always long and thin, straight lines or sticks next to one another, sometimes forming a fish-bone pattern. The ‘snake’ also plays an important part in male symbolism and is the only animal which appears in Berber carpets with a symbolic meaning. Male motifs usually frame the female motifs and almost always form a border to the rectangular area of a carpet.
Understanding the meaning of symbols gives a Berber carpet a new dimension other than just aesthetic admiration.
Extracts and images from ‘Berber Carpets of Morocco – the Symbols, Origin and Meaning’ by Bruno Barbatti. A recommended read for anyone interested in exploring the history and style of Moroccan carpets.