Amazigh Textiles in Morocco
Female Context


Introduction
Background
Weaving Technique
Imagery and Motifs
Female Context
References

 

The Women who Weave
In traditional Berber society, weaving is done by the women exclusively.  Though men may help erect the looms, it is a female craft.  They are creating the artistic symbols of Amazigh identity.  By controlling artistic production and incorporating colors and motifs that emphasize female fertility, they retain power and status (Becker 46).  Skilled weavers fetch higher bride prices and are socially engaged to weavers of many generations (Jereb 48).  Weaving strengthens kinship ties and serves as an outlet for social expression.

The wool and weaving are imbued with baraka, divine blessing (Becker 33).  So the women who work it are also blessed.  A Moroccan proverb says, “A woman who weaves forty carpets is guaranteed a place in heaven” (Becker 15).  The women’s baraka is associated with concepts of femininity and fertility.  They guard against djoun (singular jinn), spirits who prey upon the weavers (Becker 34).  These women are exercising their reproductive and creative energies and thus are vulnerable to the spirits’ influences.  “Alone among African and Islamic weavers, the Berbers believe that their finished weavings evoke a power capable of protecting not only the weaver and her family, but the textile itself” (Jereb 45).  The wool, loom, and the motifs woven are talismans for luck and protection.

An Agent for Gender Identity and Social Change
But beyond the spiritual protection afforded, women also provide economically for their husbands and families.  Instead of buying cheaper materials at market, home-made woolen carpets, blankets, and garments are a way for women to contribute to the home (Becker 32).  Women who enter the urban Moroccan textile industry are subject to far lower wages relative to men, despite their high productivity levels.  Furthermore, women have been discouraged from unionizing (Moghadam 34).  What young women do earn is put towards their families’ household finances at a higher rate than men of the same age, representing “an important contribution” (Moghadam 35).  Still most of female work is still designated in the so-called non-renumerative household labor category (Moghadam 27).  This term discounts the economic impact of women who sell their home-made textiles at market, a lucrative practice for many.  “He who enters Fez with a rug, leaves with a money bag,” as another saying from Morocco goes (Jereb 41).  Perhaps, this needs to be reread with the pronoun “she”.

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