Anzal Weavers

Anzal, Morocco

The Craft

The art of weaving in Amazigh (Berber) culture is very old, dating back to nomadic times, when carpets were used to make tents into homes. A woman's weaving skill was part of her dowry, as were the carpets, tapestries and blankets she brought to her marriage. The present-day weavers of Association Tifawin learned the craft from their mothers, grandmothers and aunts, and in turn, are passing it on to their daughters, nieces and granddaughters. Even experienced weavers continue to perfect their skills, as there are so many styles, patterns and designs to draw upon. In some parts of northern Africa, the art of weaving is dying out, as modern girls lose interest in weaving, but in Anzal, it is still very much alive, fed by a love of the craft and the particularly strong confluence of traditions unique to this town.

We in Anzal are influenced by both regional and tribal traditions. Located at the heart of the Jebel Siroua region, Anzal was settled by people of the Aít Ouaouzguite confederation of tribes. Ignored by European traders until relatively recent times, our weaving practices have remained authentic expressions of a dynamic cultural tradition. Ouaouzguite patterns are the distinctive, brightly colored geometric designs. In contrast, carpets of the ribati (royal) type feature borders, medallions and central fields, traditionally based on Islamic themes, symbols, and designs. The weavers of the Jebel Siroua region are the only rural Amazigh weavers that have had these ribati influences in their weaving for over a century. Kur designs are distinctly Amazigh. Their symbols are drawn from nature, everyday objects, and fundamental activities, but are quite stylized and abstract. The idrern (mountain) style is unique to the Siroua region.

This rich and unique confluence of traditions perfectly represents a cultural blend of Arab and Amazigh influences that is emblematic of Morocco itself. While tribal traditions persist in the form of Amazigh cultural practices, in reality, Moroccan people represent a true melding of these two dominant cultural streams.

Until very recent times, Amazigh carpets were made for personal and domestic use. From their origins as tent furnishings to present-day uses, carpets have been part of the ceremonies and traditions that bring us together. Every Amazigh family has a stack of carpets that are used to cover the floor when guests are entertained. They are spread out under the trees when tea is taken during breaks in the harvesting of almonds or olives. Small carpets are used for prayer five times a day. Carpets cover the rooftops where women beat drums, sing traditional songs, and dance (ah-hwesh) at weddings and parties. They cover the ground in the family courtyard when a bridegroom takes the handle of a grindstone and symbolically gives it a few turns to start the traditional three days of wedding festivities. They are placed in layers under the thin mattresses where new mothers lie with their infants following a birth, and again, under the biers of the recently deceased. Indeed, carpets are seen at every Amazigh ceremony, covering the ground or the platforms used by performers and honored guests. These colorful carpets are an indelible part of our Amazigh life, identity and celebration, and eloquently express our values of family, community and hospitality.