Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason are authors, designers and founders of the New York-based lifestyle and design brand AphroChic. In this column, they delve into the rich history of various objects and design motifs originating in the African diaspora.
Moroccan rag rugs, better known as “Boucherouites”, are unique among the many rugs made by women of the Berber or Amazigh tribes of Morocco. While carpet weaving has been both an honored necessity and a great art among the Amazigh people for generations, the creation of Boucherouite rugs is a fairly modern art by an ancient people.
Members of the Lamtuna Amazigh founded Morocco in 1070 AD with the construction of Marrakech. From there, they established the vast Almoravid Empire, which encompassed not only large parts of the Maghreb, but essentially all of Andalusian Spain, extending north as far as Zaragoza. Today, Amazigh tribes largely reside in the Atlas Mountains, far from the major cities of Morocco.
In the 20th century, various economic factors led to the reduction of nomadism among certain Amazigh tribes and to the transition to agriculture of traditional herding practices. As a result, the scarcity of traditional materials made it increasingly difficult for Amazigh women to weave their usual rugs in their usual way. The Boucherouites emerged in the 1960s and 1970s in response to these inescapable realities. They quickly became a new form of artistic expression.
Unlike other Moroccan rugs, which are typically made from wool, Boucherouite rugs are made from scraps of any material available, including synthetic fabrics from old clothes or even scraps from other rugs. The name Boucherouite comes from the Arabic “bu sherwit”, which means “rag” or “leftover used clothing”. of patterns and colors they can contain.
Traditionally, Moroccan rugs are woven in very well established patterns, many of which are distinguished by region. In contrast, the Boucherouite weaving style developed into a form of creative liberation for the women who created it. Instead of well-planned geometric patterns, Boucherouite rugs are “spontaneous” compositions meant to express the feelings of the weaver at a particular time. As a result, designs can range from tight geometric patterns to limitless abstract compositions with rapid color changes, mixed shapes, and seemingly random angles.
While the style originated in the Moroccan towns of Boujad and Beni Mellal, it has since spread among the Amazighs in many places, and unlike traditional Moroccan rugs, Boucherouites are difficult to connect to a specific location by design and style alone.
Originally, Amazigh rugs were woven for use in the home and were not for sale. Because of this, for a while, Boucherouite rugs were beautiful secrets that were only seen in Amazigh homes. It took a long time for people to see beyond humble materials to recognize the art and craftsmanship required to weave such magical compositions from rags or scraps.
Today, Boucherouite rugs can be used to add color and pattern to an interior. Because they emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, the pieces have a modern feel and fit in well with mid-century furnishings. They can also be presented as playful pieces that help break up overly traditional pieces. Most are unique, so you can be sure that the Boucherouite you bring home will be unlike any other in the world. Think of them as art for your floors.
Our favorite sources for Boucherouite rugs:
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