Berber Rugs and Urban Graffiti

Azilal rugs- Middle Atlas

Azilal rugs- Middle Atlas

Tribalism and symbology come in many forms, highlighting among many things identities, narrative and place. The hand knotted and woven rugs from the Middle Atlas nomadic tribes are not just pretty designs on rugs to adorn the floor, the design of each rug tells a story in a language of symbols passed down between mothers, daughters, sisters; the weavers of the tribes. Each rug is a single vision of the life of the woman who creates it. These rugs are made to be used as beds, blankets, walls, seats, coats, shrouds and each tribe has specific and favored knots, colors and styles. The lozenge, a sort of oblong diamond shape is a symbol of fertility, femininity and motherhood. Male symbols are always long, straight and thin, taking shape as lines, sticks, or ribbons. They can be smooth or covered with hatch marks, "teeth", "hooks" or "ladder" shapes. Other symbols are apotropaic, or sometimes spiritual. The sequence of design motifs from top to bottom in Berber rugs from the Middle Atlas, tend to indicate the course of an event and often mirror a particular phase in the life of the woman weaving the rug.

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 I live in Chicago, graffiti is not something we see much here, it often gets sand blasted off walls and facades, seen as defacement and defilement of buildings and architecture. Lately, I have been seeking it out, paying archaeological attention to it, analyzing and correlating tags, marks, colors and images as symbols, language and urban identities. Though the medium is immediate, I see a connection between urban graffiti and Berber rugs. Each uses symbols, colors and primitive or crude imagery like language to communicate or highlight narrative, experience, belief, identity, tribe, representation. Graffiti is like modern hieroglyphs and Berber rugs are tactile relics, utilitarian scrolls that tell of female lives and experiences.  

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Pouring over books on Berber culture, examining Berber carpets from the mid century and walking around the desolate and industrial areas of my city photographing graffiti, I have been taking my research into the studio, working on new hand knotted, woven and tufted pieces in my that draw on symbols as narrative and multipurpose uses of a textile as a functional object.

Sneak peeks of works-in-progress:

A collection of Berber rug and graffiti images:

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