Since the 16th century, the tribe of Aït Khebach have lived as nomads on the border of Morocco and Algeria. Traditionally, as happens in many places with similar characteristics, the women spend part of their time creating woven cloths, using wool from goats, sheep and camels to weave flat pieces such as blankets and clothing. They also created small woven pieces with which they covered the walls of their tents. After the independence of Morocco in 1956, this constantly-moving tribe moved beyond the southern High Atlas mountains, and began to establish their first fixed home. Single storey houses, compacted earth and cement flooring, and a culture of sleeping on cushions. This was when the Aït Khebach women began to focus on creating pieces with even greater creative energy. The early samples of natural fabrics were replaced by flat weaves created with all kinds of heterogeneous materials, growing increasingly complex.
From 1980 onwards there came a great change in their working methods, and the women began to create carpets and cushions with new knots, and weaves with denser wools. These types of pieces are the ones most visible inside their simple homes – textile displays that reflect the self-esteem and joy of this nomadic people. These textiles carry many implicit symbols of the group, and have their own language that helps to establish a common cultural heritage.
Also of interest is the way in which these pieces are created: they are made in a collective manner, as the women share a vertical loom which goes from house to house, with space for a diverse range of patterns with very different finishes and styles.
Now, the exhibition “Desert Colours” will display the Aït Khebbach carpets for the first time ever outside of Morocco, as well as numerous other objects linked to their work. An event which has been made possible thanks to the work of collectors as Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières and their many visits to Morocco, as well as the support of the Bargoin Museum in Clermont-Ferrand, France. The exhibition also includes special visits and live displays of the work of these artisans.
Photos Serge Anton/Rémi Boissau- Ville de Clermont-Ferrand .
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