I hadn’t been more interested than that in the trend of Berber carpets in recent years. I spotted them in a few pictures and they finally caught my eye. But it was by doing some research on their history that they began to obsess me. It was during a trip to Morocco, besieged by carpets on the souk, that I definitely fell in love. For their aesthetics, for the feeling to the touch, but above all for their history.
Unfortunately today, the major decoration brands have appropriated it. They make money on the local craftsmanship of the Berber tribes of the Moroccan Atlas and distort the magnificent history of these objects. They make “Berber style”, “Beni Ouarain style” carpets made in Asia from synthetic fibres that are toxic to our health and polluting. It becomes necessary to know how to recognize a real one of a simile since even on the Moroccan Souk you find some of these imitation rugs. So I’m going to try to reveal some of their secrets to you.
Berber carpets originate from the Middle Atlas and the plains around Marrakech. Their origins are said to be in the 2nd century BC. These rugs are the traditional rural art practiced by women of nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples. They are made from virgin wool from the sheep and sheep of their herds. Women make it during their rare hours of leisure in order to use it as a mattress and blanket. It is his most precious possession and his pride. In short, it is her work of art through which she has been able to express her creativity.
At the time, the loom was considered an animated being that was revered and feared. Empty he was dead, but as long as the wires were stretched, he was alive. It was forbidden for men to use it. When it came time to remove the carpet from the loom, the women sang because it meant death and the need to mourn.
The indigenous Berber populations have created a specific node called a Berber node. It should also be noted that unlike Oriental rugs, they are never made on model but according to the desire of the woman who makes them.
The lines represented on the carpets evoke symbols found in cave art. The lattice, diamond, X and XX succession each evoke femininity, mating and procreation in their own way. In parallel, a zigzag line VVVVVVVVVVVVVV refers to the phallic symbolism of the snake. You will find all the meanings in Tapis Berbères du Maroc, Bruno Barbatti, Ed. ACR.
Berber carpets have long been despised and copied without any consideration by European industry. It was not until the 1900s that several artists took an interest in it and restored it to its full value. In particular Paul Klee’s paintings with geometric shapes and Le Corbusier’s integration of these shapes into architecture. Henri Matisse called them the “white giants”.
In recent years, they have been on the rise, particularly the Beni Ouarin rugs. All the decoration brands make copies and sell “Berber style” carpets. Faced with this popular success, trend followers are getting tired of it. For my part, I share Timothy Wealon’s thoughts more:
“I don’t see them as a passing trend; rather, they are a decorative element that will always be present in interior design.”
Select a real berber carpet
The easiest way is to entrust this mission to a trusted specialist retailer. You will find two types of carpets: modern and antique, the latter being generally more expensive and intended for collectors. You can count minimum 600euros to acquire a carpet via a trusted dealer (depending on the size of the carpet).
Of course, avoid the big decoration brands that offer you machined polypropylene models at prices that are sometimes similar to a real handmade carpet.
If you are lucky enough to go to Morocco, I imagine that the ideal is to go directly to the Middle Atlas and buy your carpet from a Berber women’s cooperative, but I have not tried this solution. If you are in Marrakech, I advise you to go to the Souk des tapis. The carpets you will find on the sly are foreign machined synthetic carpets. Their price is a good indication of this.
Here are some clues to help you identify a real Berber carpet:
Colour & Material
The Berber carpet is made of 100% undyed virgin wool, which gives it a slightly ochre colour. Beware of low-cost imitations made of a mixture of wool and synthetic materials.
Take a look at the back of the carpet. A real Berber carpet is made by hand, which is why the knotting on the back is necessarily irregular.
A real Berber carpet has fringes only on one side because these fringes are the result of knots made to finish the carpet.
Sources : Tapis Berbères du Maroc, Bruno Barbatti, Ed. ACR Edition & by clicking on each photo