Berber rugs Azilal or Azilals, as their name suggests, originate from the craggy and steep Azilal region, located in the remote and hard to reach High Atlas mountains, in the south of the city of Beni Mellal , about 180 km North-East Marrakech.
Only performed by women of this region, Azilal rugs are made from virgin raw wool by alternating composed patterns of one single knotted line and one or two woven lines, according to a cultural ritual that mothers are passing down to daughters for generations.
Azilal rugs are often associated with another name “ Ourika rugs ” to actually refer to all the berber rugs that are produced a little further south by the High Atlas mountains tribes : from Demnat North to Imlil south, covering thus the entire mountainous region of Ait Ourir , Ourika Valley and the Oukaimden park.
Azilal rugs feature great creativity in terms of design; they combine irregular and abstract patterns with numerous Berbers symbols and diamonds based graphics. They are often decorated with colored materials such as wool and cotton tainted with vegetable dye or threads of recycled cloth of different colors. Azilal rugs background is ivory /cream, made of naturel virgin wool.
Azilal rugs are works where every peasant woman of Azilal region tells her story. Rural life, motherhood and childbirth are patterns’ main topics. Actually , weavers appropriate tribal signs of their ancestors to express their wedding, pregnancy and daily lives.
These berber rugs were not woven for commercial or profit-making purpose, but only for home use to cope with the rough high Atlas cold. Currently, in Western countries, in addition to Azilals’ regular use as rugs, they are widely introduced in interior decoration as beautiful wall ornaments or design elements.
Fruits of weavers’ imagination and genuine works of art, comparable to abstract paintings, Azilal rugs are rare and were almost unknown in the market until the years 90. From Paris to USA and Tokyo, many galleries exhibit Azilal rugs as works of art. Their originality and immense strength in terms of graphics have deeply inspired artists such as Matisse, Paul Klee and Le Corbusier.
Jean-Yves SEVESTRE, a recognized Berber rugs’ expert, in Marrakesh, shows one of the largest selections of Azilal rugs. Being passionate and infatuated with Berber rugs, Azilal region is one of his favourite destinations.
He is deeply involved in the fairtrade philosophy by giving full support to many weavers’ associations in order to market their berber rugs, promote and make them known to the western world.
He empowers many women to have their own money, since in these Berber family, women do not have access to money, which are actually limited to the male head of the household. They may thus allow themselves what they want, being proud to produce real masterpieces and preserve the identity of this human heritage.