These freeform ‘rag rugs” from Morocco, known as Boucherouite, or Bu Sharwit the Arabic term for scraps of material did not exist until the mid 20th century. Necessity they say is the mother of invention, and that is true for these textiles. Through adversity and hardship these fantastic works of art were created.
In the 1960’s political upheaval radically changed the way of life for the indigenous people of Morocco. Without livestock and pastureland available the nomadic tribes were forced into resettlement communities in newly established villages and urban towns. Sheep herding gave way to industrial jobs, and settled farming replace the nomadic way of life. Wool, the primary raw material for domestic carpet making became rare, and the domestic tradition of weaving became endangered.
The family looms however, still existed and by the mid 1960’s the women in the plains around the towns of Boujad and Beni Mellal started to substitute recycled materials from old clothing, cotton, synthetic fibers, nylon and even plastics, to weave blankets and rugs for their use. In the highly structured and superstitious weaving tradition of the Berbers it was not only considered a sign of poverty to weave with anything but wool, but also bad luck, and for many years the weaving of these rugs remained isolated in that region.
Harsh economic times and sociological changes in the mid 1980’s led to further migration of the rural Berber men, from the Mid and High Atlas Mountains to towns and cities. Back home attitudes began to change, The women, who now had the responsibility of the farms, the children and the elderly, became emancipated from the traditional way of life.
These young women weaving with these strips of fabric were freed from the traditional color pallet and classical motifs of their ancestors. Diamonds, zigzags, stripes, were used in crazy juxtaposition. The bright colors and the unusual textures of fabrics gave them the freedom to mix color in a way never imagined by their mothers and grandmother.
As a dealer in tribal rugs for many years, every now and then new exciting collectible rugs emerges, rugs that revitalize and stimulate collectors, I believe these rugs deserve that recognition.
Susan Gomersall, Kea Carpets and Kilims
Alberto Levi, Alberto Levi Gallery