Morocco’s rural weaving culture has attracted a great deal of attention from the international art world over the past 20 years. Much of this interest has been generated by a new generation of dealers and collectors who have used their understanding and appreciation of abstract modern art to judge these weavings, thereby gradually replacing the use of fineness, natural dyes and age as indicators of quality.
The minimalist and abstract forms seen in these rural weavings seem to both suggest an affinity with the earliest roots of the pile-weaving as well as represent the contemporary yet authentic creative and archaic spirit of tribal art.
Appreciation of the spontaneous and bold character of Moroccan Berber carpets began in the 1920s and 30s with classical modern architects such as Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto or Marcel Breuer who integrated them into their interiors and promoted them in important presentations and the interiors shops of the period.
Moroccan weavings can be divided into various categories. The sophisticated Arabic urban tradition has been subject to cultural exchange with the Mediterranean and was greatly influenced by the styles of the Ottoman Empire until the early 20th century. The carpet production of the nomadic Arab tribes is of minor importance, apart from the products of the Haouz region. In the urban embroideries of the 18th and 19th century the influence of the Moorish and Jewish migrants who moved back to Morocco from Spain in the late Middle Ages are still visible.
On the other hand the rural carpets of Morocco have followed regional Berber cultural traditions and appear to have a style that remained independent until the 20th century. And since there was not really a European demand before the 20th century, Moroccan carpets have always been produced mainly for personal needs or an internal market. It is surprising that the influence between the urban centres and the remote Berber regions was relatively small with the exception of the relation between the urban centres of Rabat and Salé to the Jebel Siroua region and parts of the Ait Ouaouzguite confederation. Otherwise only the Oulad bou Sbaa in the south-western part of the Haouz plains seem to have produced carpets orientated on an urban style before the 20th century.