Spotlight on Zaiane and Beni Mguild Carpets : Ancient Techniques, Modern Art

Moroccan Rugs

Oriental carpets and tribal rugs have always caught the imaginations of artists and architects. However, Moroccan Berber rugs in particular maintain a special place in early and mid twentieth century Western design. With modernity and modernism coming to the fore in the early 20th century, designers started to think about more abstract and bold tribal concepts for interiors

While many 20th century designers and architects turned to the large cream and brown Beni Oaurain rugs (for their combination of simplicity and creative inventiveness), it’s not so well known that many also used the intricate geometric and boldly coloured carpets and flat-woven rugs from the cold central Middle Atlas Mountains – the rugs from the Zaiane and the Beni Mguild peoples. This is my region - where I was born and grew up. And these rugs are quietly hitting the current design culture with their gorgeous lusciousness and unique personalities

For example, Charles and Ray Eames used intricate geometric red, rust and orange-hued Beni Mguild Moroccan flat-woven rugs in their Pacific Palisades, CA, home

From the estate of  Charles and Ray Eames

From the estate of Charles and Ray Eames

Le Corbusier said that he felt Moroccan rugs ‘flicker on the floor’ and should therefore create a sense of comfort similar to that of sitting round a campfire. He showed Berber carpets in both his Maison La Roche-Jeanneret and the rooms of the Pavilion de l’Esprit Nouveau (1925). He explained, ‘Do as the Berber do: marry imagination to the most recognisable geometry, but define the imagination’ and included these rugs in the handful of powerful decorations he used in his rooms

Le Courbusier’s  Maison La Roche

Le Courbusier’s Maison La Roche

In 1969 Claudia Magazine use a similar rug as a back drop for Yves Saint Laurent at a time when he was showcasing louche, liberated and sensationally incongruous new collections

Yves Saint Laurent Claudia Magazine 1969.jpg

These jewel hued intricate rugs came from a few areas in the cold Middle Atlas mountains:

The Zaiane Berber tribes live in and around Khenifra - a city in northern central Morocco, surrounded by the Middle Atlas Mountains, on the Oum Er-Rbia River. Around this region, the Zaiane Berber tribes (a confederation that consists of a dozen or more tribes) wove distinctive thick knotted pile carpets that were created to be warm and cosy. They are dominated by the use of bold and blood red wool, and occasionally dark blue and brown and a lush and beautifully creative

Just north of Khenifra lies the region where the Beni Mguild tribes weave their heavy pile carpets with asymmetrical yet relatively ordered designs and using deep bold colours like magenta, blue, egg yolk and blood orange

A rare Maroc Tribal  Beni Mguild  carpet

A rare Maroc Tribal Beni Mguild carpet

A thick and deeply hued Maroc Tribal Beni Mguild rug

A thick and deeply hued Maroc Tribal Beni Mguild rug

These rugs were woven to be used as sleeping mats as well as floor coverings, which explains why they have long pile and are quite square in shape. They are also unique in that the weavers saw the pile side as the back of the carpet and the flat side as the front. You can see the glorious and complex designs and narratives by turning the carpet over. And the pile side will often be wonderfully shaggy, slightly obscuring the composition

Zaiane 2.jpg

In this regions of the Middle Atlas of Morocco winters can be harsh, so rugs are very thick to protect them against the cold . Rugs are thick with hand spun pure wool, and were valuable family heirlooms

That these rug are full of colour and beautiful shape and symbolism appealed to the most famous 20th century architects, and each piece in the Maroc Tribal collection was hand made and has its own unique story

A Maroc Tribal Zaiane carpet in the home of designer  Douglas Mackie

A Maroc Tribal Zaiane carpet in the home of designer Douglas Mackie



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