Berber ’ology’

Morocco is a land of many crafts and traditions influenced by centuries of multiculturalism but the oldest and most authentic is that of the indigenous Berber people. The Berber (or Imazighan which means free people) much like the crafts that they produce have their own story to tell which is truly fascinating.  

As the majority of our collection is created by Berber artisans, we wanted to share some of the cultural significances often found on the finished pieces and in doing so provide an insight into a lesser-known community and providing a deeper understanding of the meaning behind their creations

A Love of Handcrafting Techniques

Berber ideology is made unique by the craftsmanship which is steeped into the culture. Authentic Berber crafts aren’t mass-produced but created as one-off pieces, usually for a specific purpose. The Handira blanket being an example of this is a wedding blanket woven to offer blessings, good luck, and protection to newlyweds. A true labour of love!

As ‘free people’ Berber communities are pretty much self-sufficient. Living in small villages in and around the Atlas Mountains. the men typically work either in farming or in other communal craft workshops (generally pottery or basket weaving) whilst the women work creating rugs and other textiles. The handcrafts they create are taken to weekly markets in the larger towns and cities where they are auctioned to market traders who go on to sell them in souks up and down Morocco providing an income to the villages which is often their main livelihood.

Behind the Symbolism

Berber crafts are covered in symbology of ‘Baraka’ – a divine blessing or religious power. The representation of ‘Baraka’ symbols is thought to ward off misfortune, heal and bring good luck. 

For centuries, art, symbolism, patterns, and colour have been used to express the ‘Baraka’ rituals and beliefs. For Berber artisans, crafting and handiwork is used as a form of artistic expression through which their storytelling is told and shared through decorative home décor.

Many of the Berber rugs and cushions you’ll find on our site have distinctive patterns and symbols that refer to the creation of family, fertility, love and supernatural powers. Quite often the symbols most commonly found are of:

  • Barley:A rectangle filled with a chequered pattern of light and dark colours. This is common on rugs and symbolises the blessing of fertility.
  • The Eye:Drawn in a concentric diamond pattern, it symbolises protection against the devil’s eye and keeps evil spirits away. 
  • The Frog:Featuring an ornate diamond design, it symbolises fertility and magical rites - This also happens to be the symbol of our logo!
  • The Spider: A diamond-shape with openings on the edges, represents the sun, patience, working life and harmony.

Colours are also used to reinforce symbolic designs and are chosen for their meaning in storytelling. For example, white symbolises peace and purity, while red indicates strength and protection. 

For centuries, authentic handmade Berber designs and décor were only found in Moroccan households, mosques and town buildings. Today, their culture is celebrated across the world. 

We’re proud to showcase our heritage and the beautiful crafts our beloved homeland of Morocco has to offer. We feel strongly about maintaining an ancient and unique art form and traditions and in doing so help provide Berber villages with an income to sustain growth and development. Find out how we support sustainability and trade practices with our Moroccan artisans here.

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