Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London
14th October-17th December 2011
Weaving the threads of livelihood: the aesthetic and embodied knowledge of Berber weavers


Weaving the threads of livelihood: the aesthetic and embodied knowledge of Moroccan weavers is an exhibition that celebrates the living textile tradition of Morocco.

This is the first exhibition anywhere in the world dedicated to contemporary textile production in Morocco. Several Sirwa weavers will come to London for the exhibition, to meet the audience and demonstrate their weaving skills.

The Sirwa is situated at the junction of the High Atlas and the Anti Atlas mountain ranges. The Berber weavers of the Sirwa are renowned for their wide range of textiles and their technical knowledge and artistry. In addition to embroidery and sprang (an ancient precursor of knitting), female Sirwa weavers master several weaving techniques: tapestry weaving, twinning, brocading and knotting, which they use individually or in combination. Since the 1980s weaving production has intensified, this activity occupying most of the households in the region and constituting a major livelihood option complementing subsistence agriculture.
The central piece of the exhibition is a 19th century cloak, the akhnif, a garment unique to Morocco that has inspired the production of a new type of carpet in the 1990s, and variants since. In the exhibition, many of these richly coloured, densely embellished and painstakingly crafted carpets will be displayed. They demonstrate the dynamism and creativity of Sirwa weavers who exploit and continuously update their rich weaving tradition to produce a great variety of weavings for the international market.

Visitors to the exhibition can watch as the Sirwa weavers demonstrate their technical skills on equipment especially brought from Morocco and can even try their own hand at weaving. They will be given the opportunity to touch almost every item displayed in the exhibition, to handle tools (spindles, cards and beating combs) and textures (yarns and weaving samples) and to walk barefoot on carpets.

A one-day international conference on Moroccan textiles will take place in conjunction with the exhibition. The conference will explore Moroccan textiles in their historical and social context; contemporary Moroccan textile designers and artists will present their work and creations.

Dr Myriem Naji received her PhD from University College London. She conducted fieldwork in the Sirwa and in other carpet producing areas of Morocco. Her doctoral dissertation examines the lives and livelihoods of female weavers and their families in the Sirwa region. It explores embodied knowledge and craft production, with a theoretical emphasis on gender and value creation.

This event is made possible by the generous support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco,The Moroccan British Society, Royal Air Maroc   and the Moroccan Tourism Board


© Copyright Embassy of The Kingdom of Morocco 2009