My sketchbook hasn’t been opened since Ramadaan. I haven’t peeked at DailyServing since Allah knows when, and my art history books that I brought to Morocco are collecting dust. I find myself wondering if I still know how to draw. Why? No reason, really, besides everything that I’m currently working on doesn’t really present a need for art. Creative thinking, sure, that’s necessary for almost everything. But actual knowledge of the color wheel? Talent? Nope– you can teach English, speak Darija, and plan an interfaith dialogue just fine without them.
You can understand, then, why I almost cried from sheer happiness the other day. One of my friends told me that a group of women artisans in Tameslouht wanted to start an association and wanted me to help. They wanted me to help! Women! WITH SOMETHING THAT HAS TO DO WITH ART! I pretty much scrubbed my schedule clean to make it to their initial meeting.
Their story is a tale of girl power triumphing over all. Most of the women artisans are in their late 30’s and 40’s. They’ve been working at their crafts for a long time and are ridiculously talented. The business model here in Morocco puts them in a position where they sell their products to a middleman who turns around and sells them in Marrakech (which, in a lot of cases, are bought at a very cheap price and then sold for exponentially more in Europe. Consider it the opposite of Fair Trade.) Therefore, the women haven’t been making very much. They broke off from their male-dominated and male-run artisan associations, convened, and decided to start something completely new.
They became official on Friday (gathered, drank coke, ate cookies, signed papers) and invited me to come. I can’t tell you how strange it feels to be in a room full of women– after all this time livin’ in the dude realm of the world, it’s wonderful to be back around my own kind in large numbers. And I absolutely love how feisty they get when the men aren’t around (or, if they’re around, are in a small enough number to be rendered invisible). We had one woman explain that men had their chance to turn this town into one that is world famous for its artisan crafts. They failed. Now, it’s time for the women to do it and do it right.
….isn’t that awesome?
I’ve sat down with them a few times and talked to them what their plan is, what their goals are, and all that boring (albeit important) jazz. They’re looking into a more organized financial system and a different market that renders the middleman useless. We’re trying to help them out by starting a website and then training them how to run the whole thing. Moroccan handcrafted goods at the click of a button? You’re welcome for making your dreams come true!
We met today to photograph their products and begin setting up the website. It was really fun to hang out with them and watch them work a little on their embroidery. Moroccan embroidery is absolutely amazing. For those of you who haven’t ever seen it, this is not quite your grandmother’s cross-stitch. These women work wicked fast and the stitching is the exact same on both sides! It’s quite the phenomenon– as you can see from my transfixed face in the pictures below.
Being around artisans– especially women artisans– is super cool. I’m really looking forward to working with them more and to forcing friends and family to buy their products. Check out a sampling of their stuff here. If you see anything you like, let me know– it’s all for sale!
TRADITIONAL MOROCCAN HANDICRAFTS FROM THE WOMEN ARTISANS OF TAMESLOUHT