Marrakech, Morocco, May-July 2014
Abdelaziz Zerrou and Aglaia Haritz worked in collaboration with Amazigh (Berber) embroiderers in a small village in the region of Marrakech, supported by the Swiss Embassy of Rabat and the Dar Al Ma’Mûn Foundation.
We worked with embroiderers from the Cooperative Yagour in Tighduin (63 km from Marrakech), the Cooperative Tigmi in Aït Ourir (33 km from Marrakech) and the Cooperation for the Freedom of Weaving and Embroidery in Tameslouth (17 km from Marrakech).
The theme of discussion was the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Amazigh language and its Tifinagh alphabet.
During the hours that they embroidered and weaved, we spoke about their personal story, about the role of Berber women in everyday life, whether political, religious, social or economic.
We translated in the Tifinagh alphabet three words: Exist, Read, Today; we drew the letters on fabric with henna and we embroidered repetitive, white, Amazigh symbols all over the surface, formally inspired by the traditional decoration of the veil for the wedding ceremony in the Middle Atlas region.
These artworks aimed to express the difficulty for an oral culture to exist in the contemporary world: every Amazigh speaks fluently Berber but very few can read and write it, and the new written language is still strange to them, because it is an oral culture.
Inspired by the work of Slav and Tatar, we asked the women from the Cooperative in Tighdouin to weave three big « Amazigh tongues » using different techniques. Amazing tongue-carpets are ready to speak, but it is the voice of women, who finally give them sound and meaning.
The Article Nr.5 in the Moroccan Constitution of 2011 defines in a not very clear sentence that Amazigh is an official language, together with Arabic, but there is not any official translation into Amazigh. That is why we let Tameslouth’s women embroider the translated sentence into Berber.
The fabric was woven from a man of the Cooperation and women embroidered the letters with silver sequin that emit a thin sound.
We recorded the sound of discussions during the work and we also recorded video interviews of both embroiderers and weavers, telling us about the position of the Amazigh in society and their place in the country.
For these women the linguistic and cultural difference is not a huge problem, because they speak Berber and Arabic in everyday life and they are too involved to have a critical point of view. Some of them are married to an Arab man and they do not speak Amazigh with their children, because the father does not understand it and does not want to learn it.
They are not aware of their Berberness, of the struggle for the recognition of the Amazigh culture and language that some militants are engaged in, they are not interested in the Constitution, and do not feel the need to know their rights or more than is necessary to lead their everyday lives.
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