History of Berber carpets
The beginnings of the Berber carpet, its origin and the meaning of its motives goes back very far. It does not come from Oriental carpets of the Islamic era, but the similarity of the technique of knotting and certain motifs indicates common roots, probably dating back to the Neolithic of Asia Minor. Away from the great civilizations of Antiquity and far from the cultural exchanges of the Silk Road, the Berber carpet has kept its originality in the mountainous regions of the Atlas and the Atlantic plains.
Paleolithic rock engraving in Aït Ouazik
When the motifs of the Berber carpet are brought closer to the signs of parietal art and the artefacts of the first cultures of man, we find the same principles in the use of signs and forms, and we discover astonishing similarities between them. correspondences, even with the phenomena of the Upper Paleolithic of Europe, the Neolithic of the East and the Mediterranean basin. Thus, the Berber carpet can perhaps be considered as the last testimony of this archaic world.
Be that as it may, the abstract and geometrical language of the Berber carpet is derived from the origin of the body, the form and the functions of the human sexual organs. Based on the duality and the encounter of the two sexes, it becomes the expression of a magic of universal fertility, including all nature. Artistic creation of the Berber woman, her carpet reflects above all the phases of her life and the experience of her sex life: as a virgin, as a new bride, the union with man, pregnancy and childbirth.
In the XIIe and XIIIe century, the beauty of carpets or wall hangings ("hanbel"), as well as the place that this production occupied in Morocco were already underlined.
In the Middle Ages, the carpet was among the gifts won by foreign embassies or in the pageantry of a princely caravan where camels were seen in silk and gold threads and carpets ("zarabi ") Of unparalleled beauty. Among the different meanings of the term "zarabia" (carpet), of Arab origin, we will particularly remember that of "flowerbed" or "what is stretched on the ground and on which we take support". The Berberized form is "tazerbyt".
In Morocco, we also use the word "qtifa", of the same origin, which refers to the carpet wool high woven generally in high-altitude areas among the Marmoucha and Aït Ouaouzguite. In the 16th century, Jean Leon the African (Al-Hasan ibn Muhammed) specified that the carpet was part of the trousseau of the bride of Fez: "One gives still a carpet with wool long of about twenty cubits and three blankets of which one face is a sheet ... " The carpets were also sold at auction in Fes and exported, especially to Black Africa. They were renowned for their finesse in the majestic qoubba ("dome" in Arabic), ablution centers for believers going to the mosque.
The carpet is a gift of choice and in the nineteenth century, the Moroccan carpet was one of the most exported products to Europe. It was found very present in France at the universal exhibitions of 1867, 1878 and 1889. At the end of the nineteenth century and early twentieth, the weaving of the carpet was an activity very present in almost all Moroccan cities.
Original works of art dating from the 17th century:
Beni M'guild Tribe (Central Middle Atlas) Tribu Aït Ouaouzguit (Haut-Atlas) Tribe of Ouled bou sba (haouz of Marrakech)