Many people in Morocco’s rural Atlas Mountains drop out of education at a young age. This affects the Berber community and their ability to earn an income. Working to tackle this, the Eve Branson Foundation runs craft centres to provide the opportunity to learn artisanal skills that can lead to a future income for individuals and their families.
Through training and skills development, community members learn to create and produce high quality gifts including soft woven fabrics, embroidered home accessories, wooden carved jewellery, traditional Berber wool carpets and children’s soft toys and clothing – all which can be sold to help generate income.
The centres also help to preserve ancient Moroccan traditions in craft-making – embroidered Berber motifs even use the original symbols of the Amazigh Berber language to tell stories. Techniques include weaving on ancient foot-operated looms, embroidery by hand and carving and sanding reclaimed wooden organic structures, by hand.
Based at the Tansghart Woodwork Centre, Abdellatif Ait Faraj is 25-years-old and was born in nearby Tassa Ouirgane. Training in Casablanca, Abdellatif met, now business partner, David during a meeting with the High Atlas Foundation in Ouirgane. The duo formed in 2014.
Educated in Tahanout, just outside of Marrakech, Abdellatif was keen to learn the carpentry trade back in his home surroundings of the Atlas Mountains. Thanks to his dedication and ambition to learn and take on more responsibility, Abdellatif now supervises eight trainees at the Tansghart Woodwork Centre, sharing his highly skilled artisanal woodworking techniques.
“My favourite part of my work is learning to operate new machinery and tools and creating new designs on the computer. One day I hope to learn furniture skills abroad which I can bring back here to the valley and use to train others.”
Also working at the Tansghart Craft Centre is lead teacher, Rachid who has been delivering a tailoring programme for the past five years. Born in the Ourika Valley, Rachid studied tailoring in Marrakech and went on to teach at the Alpha Top Model School for eight years. He also trained young women in Imskar to sew their own clothes.
Under Rachid’s supervision, Tansghart Crafthouse supplies many of the beautifully handmade items featured at Kasbah Tamadot, such as pool bags, traditional embroidered tableware, spa uniforms and kids’ rucksacks. To date, more than 40 young women have qualified in tailoring through his programme.
“My dream is to have an embroidering machine which would enable the production of items such as personalised robes and Moroccan slippers and wedding gowns. I enjoy the challenge of teaching new skills here.”