Posted by David R. E. Hunt on 09-06-2003 08:19 PM:

Moroccan Carpets

All- True, it does seem that a preponderence of Moroccan carpets are of the coarse weave and lurid dye variety, which I delieve can be explained by the spacial relationship to the west, both in the proximity to inexpensive artificial dyes, but perhaps more important , how tourism has impacted the tradition weaving culture.I suspect that a virtual tidal wave of airport art quality weaving has been generated in pursuit of a market share of the souvenir trade. I saw many rugs which I thought were quite beautiful when visiting morocco-I especially remember seeing some astounding kelims, purported to be antique, in a magnificent purple silk. There is good stuff, but a lot of not so good stuff as well-importing is relatively easy, an exchgange rate of nearly ten to one, consumers as well as buyers are not readily familiar with the goods- simple math- Dave

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 09-20-2003 12:57 AM:

Design Origins

All- I have pulled out my copy of Pickering's Moroccan Carpets, and thought that it might be interesting to compare/contrast some of his observations made while assembling his collection wth those made during my visit to Morocco and the High Atlas Mountains in 1999.
I have always been intrigued by the apparent relationship between tilework and the geometric decorations of carpets. It seems that they draw from the same repetoir of design elements, and I would not be suprised if analogs from many tile patterns are to be found in carpet designs. I would suggest that nothing more than a visit to a regional mosque could spur a reinterpretation of these same mosque tile patterns as a pile or flatweave carpet pattern. Islamic influences in tribal or cottage industry carpets. I believe it was a recent issue of Smithsonian magazine, in an article on the highly sophisticated Moroccan production of tiles, that I saw a florid rendition of the Mina Khani pattern, much as in the early Kurdish(?) origionals, executed on tile. Unfortunately, my son threw said magazine into the bath tub so...

Pickering states that carpets exhibiting a lattice design characterize the weavings of High Atlas tribes,
much as a lattice design characterizes the floor tiles of my In-law's home at the base of the High Atlas mountains.
It is my understanding that both the urban carpets of the northern cities and much of the geometric ornaments of the rural carpets are believed to be inspired by Turkish and/or middle eastern imports, yet the Berber, being an indigenous people, have been in north Africa from ancient times. What are, if any, their contributions to the design repetoir of Moroccan weaving? Also, do those design influences, which seem to proceed from Turkish and middle eastern influence, represent a mimicry of imported designs, or the artistic contributions of people from these fore mentioned regions who emigrated to and settled in Morocco? Pickering asserts that the textile record as it exists spans a scant 300 years; might have to look elsewhere for clues.
My brother in law purchased this for me during our visit, my wife and I, at his apartment in the High Atlas town of Ouarazazate, last outpost of the French Protectorate, setting of the comic strip CROC, and of all things a motion picture studio. If I am not mistaken, "Lawrence of Arabia" was filmed here, using real Arab Tribesmen. My brother-in law was an art instructor at the local Moroccan version of the community college, and was serving a two year tour of duty. There seemed to be many of this variety of weaving about, with the geometric borders and what my wife claims are amulets. Some of these geometrics do resemble those amulets of some Turkmen rugs, so I think this may be plausible. These carpets are executed in the basic weft-faced plainweave, with design elements rendered in the weft substitution or weft float technique. While of different colors, they all seemed to be rather simplistic, which suggests to me- utilitairian. Much is made of the Berber and their anamistic beliefs.What of these sheep(?) and camels rendered here on this rug? Also, this "window" symbol, if that is what it is, what of it? Kindered to the window effect of some Turkmen (Turkish?) rugs? In this second example we see the design simplified, with no animals present, but with emphasis upon geometrics and amulets? The window is present but reduced.
One statement, which I am at a loss to understand, is the assertion by Pickering that the term Berber carpet is a misnomer in that it refers to a certain machine made beige weave of manufactured origin which has no Moroccan counterpart. While in Ouarazazate I saw numerous examples of a rather drab earth to beige colored, tightly woven small rugs which, it was explained to me, were used in the past as a kind of wrap and being nearly if not completely waterproof. A close look revealed the berber rug type weave, abeit on a much smaller scale. These rugs were really curious creatures,with some showing hints of color within the interior details of some of the medallions, arranged in rows as in a panel design.I must admit, however, that this is not the type of weaving that someone assembling a collection such as Pickering's might encounter. I might have a picture some where, i'll see what I can do.- Dave

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 09-20-2003 01:59 AM:

Tile Wannabe


The book Oriental Carpets (or, as previously titled, The Christian Oriental Carpet, by Volkmar Gantzhorn) also suggests a link between tile work and carpet designs.
It is certainly quite likely that the designs of tile work would be appropriated for weavings. It may even be possible that the weavers were intentionally copying floor tile designs to mimic them for use in their dirt-floor tents.
The same has been suggested for the Turkmen engsi - it was a copy of an urban wooden door design for use in the more portable, tribal yurt.

I can certainly empathize with your son throwing the book into the bathwater. I had a dog once that decided to take a few bites from my copy of E. Gans-Ruedin's Caucasian Carpets. She Ruedined it.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by R. John Howe on 09-20-2003 07:58 AM:

David -

I don't think there need to be any mystery about Russ and Brooke Pickering's reference to some carpets called "Berber" nowadays that are not.

There is a species of wall to wall carpet done in mild shades and in a nubby, fairly coarse pile, that one can encounter in nearly any wall to wall rug establishment and that they call "Berber."

My guess is that they do so because it mimics (somewhat) the tones and textures of some real Berber rugs. The Pickerings are merely making the point that the wall to wall "Berbers" are not what they are talking about.


R. John Howe

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 09-20-2003 06:35 PM:

Plains of Marrakech

All- This carpet, a gift from my in-laws who reside on the plains of Marrakech, seems to coincide in design and structure with the products of the Oland Bou Sbaa region located in, of all places, the plains of Marrakech, as described by Pickering.

With goat h
air warps and it's black weft triangles, this rug more resembles the apron treatment of plate # 7, and the pile treatment is restricted to three bands of large scale geometric ornaments. At 5'4" x 10'8" and 5h x 4v symmetric knots sans wefts, this rug is neither as complex a design or tightly woven, let alone as large, as the Pickering rugs. While one might be tempted to attribute the ill resolution of the design to wear or age (approx. 40 yrs.), much is as consequence of the
coarse turkish knots, interspersed between numerous wefts and arranged in rows. This recent photo of a like weaving in use demonstrates the intended appearence of these carpets.

I have included this simple plainweave. which consists of three wide bands at each end, not only because of a superficial resemblance to the weaving of the Ait Haddidouof the Middle Atlas, but also because it parallels the end treatment of some Turkmen rugs, which may of course just be coincidence.

This Gabbeh, or even Rag rug, was obtained in the coastal city of El Jedidah, and aside from a simple description, which except for the single row of Turkic knots is pretty much self explanatory, I know nothing- Dave

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 09-25-2003 02:04 PM:

Weaving Identified

All- Our hosts Muhammed and Nasima were kind enough to e-mail me and provide an identification of the above said small red weaving in terrible colors yet interesting design, as well as it's blue contemporary. These weavings are tourist versions of the akhnif or cradle blanket, which would coincide with my wife's assertion that some of the amulets depicted relate to childbirth or such topics. Now that my memory is jogged, it seems to me the way it was described at the time.
This is a prime example, as espoused by a dealer in Morocco, of the degeneration of a weaving by outside/market influences. With this in mind, I would think that a quality example of one of these blankets would make an excellent addition to someone's collection- Dave