I had the opportunity to visit Aisha and her family in their home back in October 2018. Aisha lives in a small village 6 hours north east of Marrakech, and a short drive from the cooperative we work with.
Aisha and her husband reside in a simple home with their two young children. In exchange for living for free, they farm the landlord’s olive grove and maintain the land. Aisha did not have the opportunity to attend school and makes carpets to support her family when she is not picking olives or caring for her children. Everything I learned and the conversation shared with Aisha was through translation.
At 16 years old Aisha began making her own carpets. As with most women, Aisha learned the craft of making wool carpets from her mother, who taught her from a very young age.
The moment Aisha welcomed us in to her simple home, I knew she was a sweet heart. She offered us chairs in front of her loom, which was set up on the ground level of the home. This simple loom was made of ordinary branches from a tree, held in place by string, which zigzagged across the room for stability. When asked what her favourite kind of carpet is to make, she replied that she enjoyed the bright coloured ones, especially with the colour red as it is a symbolic colour for Moroccans.
I was filled with so many emotions as I sat down and absorbed this unique piece of art still attached to the loom. Here was one of the carpets I had ordered a few weeks prior to my arrival in Morocco. Although the motifs on the carpet were up side down and backwards to me, I knew exactly what they were. To make the carpet, the artisan must hand knot all of the motifs in mirror image, starting at the bottom of the carpet, which to me is a big enough challenge to begin with! Aisha sat down behind the loom on a simple plastic stool and happily began tying the last few rows of knots at the end of the carpet. Aisha had saved completing the finishing touches so that I could see the process in person. She showed me how she tied each knot of wool and cut it at the exact same length as every other knot that was already in place. Although this carpet measured only one meter by one and a half meter, it clearly had thousands of knots within it. I closed my eyes and smiled as I sat beside her and listened to the steady, rhythmic sound of the scissors cutting each piece of wool after the knot was placed.
With a shy smile on her face, she shared that she was thankful for the opportunity to work with me. Aisha explained that because she is able to make carpets for raha roho, she helps provide me with a job. This job in turn requires her skills, which gives her opportunity to work.
In this photo I am giving Aisha a pair of hand knit Cowichan socks made by a First Nations woman from Saanich, B.C. I explained to Aisha that this is a traditional form of art made by a Canadian woman and I wanted to give it to her as an exchange between Canadian and Moroccan wool craftsmanship. It was another way I could thank each artisan I met on my journey.