Textiles in Morocco were primarily made to be used very practically. They might make a rug that is woven for a home or that for the saddle of a camel or donkey. The Berber woman might make something that can go onto her bed or hung on the wall, or something that she can wear most days of the week. Her textile tells her story, that of her religion, homeland, daily traditions, and social status. She has near-total freedom of expression, and her weaving is one of her most prized possessions.
Some trial weavings were done for special occasions. The Handira is an example, which is woven for a woman on the way to her wedding. It’s typically quite lavish, with sequins, and varied textures, and is most often woven in white or cream, though occasionally a black Handira is seen.
Sometimes textiles are used for sacred purposes, such as when used in a home during a type of yearly fair (called the Moussem), and/or used in order to honor saints. In fact, the genesis of weaving is considered to be associated with saints, of whom the most notable is Sidi Moulay Idriss, considered to be the inventor of weaving by many rural and urban weavers.
The weavings themselves are thought to have magical and mystical properties, and some argue that this was and is even more important than the decorative and social aspect of these pieces. Looms are considered symbols of magical protection, considered to hold Baraka. Baraka is defined as a spiritual expression that begins with God and flows to all of those in connection with God. Correspondingly, wool is considered to be lucky, and it’s thought that if the woman weaves carefully, her weaving will be not only beautiful but also protective against any evil forces against not only the weaver but her family and the textile. Though this isn’t a commonly held belief in the Arab world, Berber women possess this belief.
Moroccan rugs were not widely recognized or appreciated until the start of the 20th century. Given their abstract and asymmetrical designs, with looser knotting than the conventionally appreciated and accepted Persian rugs, they were considered of lesser quality by most rug aficionados. With the rise of cubism and abstract art, Berber carpets came to be appreciated. The French first took notice, somewhat naturally with their colonization, and Mr. Prosper Ricard first published a catalog of the carpets in the 1920s, and it wouldn’t be until after the 1980s that the Berber carpets made their way into international view and admiration, with tours to the US, Europe.