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May 08

A Year Ago in Morocco

It is hard to believe that it was just last May when we were in Morocco on a textile tour with Dr. Susan Shaefer Davis, author of Women Artisans of Morocco: Their Stories, Their Lives, published by Thrums Books. Now we’re faced with the great unknown of when we will be able to travel again–our memories residing in the captivating photos of the women artisans, the vivid surrounds, the cultural richness, and the cheerful rugs. Yes, the rugs we brought home are definitely being enjoyed more as we pad about the house day in and day out.

The few rugs we brought home last May for ClothRoads were scooped up in short order. What follows is the story of our time with the women weavers of the Timnay Association, the group known throughout Morocco as some of the finest weavers in the whole country.

After traveling a few hours  through the Anti-Atlas Mountains, we came to a halt near some family compounds and a school near the road. We had made it to the village of N’Kob, the home of the famed women weavers of the Timnay Association, and where most families depend on the women’s weaving to make ends meet.

Color bloomed as we approached the compound–not from plants but from the richness of the rugs spread on the ground both outside and inside the walled area. We were quickly greeted by women and children. Our group wasted no time in perusing the rugs and scooping up ones they were potentially interested in. Questioning ensued and our three women translators who accompanied us this day were quickly put to work. (N’kob is a Berber village and our tour guides didn’t speak this language). Each weaver stood by her rugs, some quite shy while others nudged us into committing to their fine work.

A Visit to the Weaver’s House
It was now midday and we were motioned into a house owned by Fatima El Mennouny. Here the association women demonstrated dyeing, spinning and weaving. Fatima has four sons and five daughters (two of whom she has taught to weave). Her favored type of rug is a “picture” rug. These are  quite innovative, using a combination of flatweaves, piles, and sometimes twining. The motifs appear as little pictures that come together into a whole story. Fatima is also quite a savvy rug seller—she know quality and uses the best dyes and materials for her rugs. The day of our visit, she sold the most rugs of any other weaver.

Rugs in Process
Fatima El Mennouny’s two daughters were weaving side-by-side. With the help of our translator, I asked about the patterns being woven as there was no noticeable drawing, and how could they both be weaving side by side? The answer was that they just made up patterns as they wove, inlaying dots, dashes, zigzags, short-pile patterns, etc. I did notice one of them had started a pattern then glanced at what her sister was weaving. She removed her pattern and laid in a different one!

Across the room, a mother with her two young girls were scouring wool while others sat and spun. My friend joined in the spinning and motioned for me to do likewise. Pointing and laughter ensued not because we couldn’t spin, but because we knew HOW to spin albeit a tad different than they did. I purchased a handspindle and Fatima El Mennouny took it. She started spinning with it, saying if she started the spinning then I would carry blessings from her country. Just spending the day with this group was a blessing, and leaving the women with money for the rugs purchased was a blessing for them.

About the Timnay Association
The association was founded in 2010 after an agreement was made between a group of women in the village of N’kob. The village of N’kob is located near Taznakht, a town known for its livestock and agriculture. These two activities contributed to making the town of Taznakht and the surrounding area well known for its quality natural handmade traditional products, thanks to the availability of natural wool and plants and other raw materials. For more information about the association and Morocco rugs, visit Susan Shaefer Davis’s website .

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