At one of the collectives we visited, we had the privilege of interviewing a master weaver. We sat down with Saida Zanafi and talked to her about her work, how weaving in Morocco is changing, and the feeling she gets when she completes a rug. Translated by Salma Debbarh, our head of Morocco.
Tell us about yourself and your work. My name is Saida Zanafi. I was born in Taznakht. Since I first opened my eyes, I saw rugs.
How did you learn this art form? Have you taught anyone else? No one taught us how to weave. We learned by observing our mothers, aunts, and sisters. Since birth I’ve watched them weave.
I have only one daughter who learned weaving from me. No one taught her. She just watches me and keeps me company, while she studies. She follows when I go dyeing or weaving and learns by observing, without guidance.
I inherited my mother’s weaving tools since I was the youngest. After she died, I took her tools and started to use them. I also inherited her endurance and patience.
How old were you when you started to weave? I started weaving when I was about 9. I used to sit with my sisters and learn how to dye.
How has the weaving landscape changed ? When I was young, no one taught girls how to weave. We learned in our homes.
Now, we teach girls to weave in the cooperative. Today, unlike us, girls go to school and don’t have time to learn to weave. In Morocco only women weave. Men shear wool from sheep.
It’s important that this tradition stays alive. Here, if a family doesn’t have a rug in their home, it’s as though they aren’t really a part of the community. There is a loom in every single house in the village.
Why do you do it? What do you like about it? I love mornings, when I finish my work at home. I prepare my space to sit and my tools to weave.
We find joy in weaving because we get to sit together, talk and laugh. We don’t get bored. It’s a way to pass the time.
How long does it take to finish a rug? If it is a small rug, 1.5 square meters, I can finish within one month. If it is a big rug we do it by two. I can’t do it alone.
What’s the most important thing for a weaver? Skills. It is important to be skilled and follow the requirements of the craft. One must work with pure, living wool. The weaver should dye and wash it with her own hands, to master all the steps.
What does weaving feel like to you? I am happy when I finish a rug. It is very fulfilling, and I feel that I did something important that expressed a feeling inherited in my body.
I feel a special sentiment for each process as I weave, and joy when I untie the rug from the loom to show my work to a guest, my husband, my children.
I hope that the people who get to buy my rugs can share this joy with me.