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Here at Krrb Classifieds there’s nothing we love more than a good cause! When we came across Carpet of Life we absolutely knew that we needed to learn more about them and teach all of you about them as well. You simply send in old articles of clothing and they are transformed into beautiful Moroccan rugs made by women in M’hamid El Ghizlane. The act of making these rugs provides financial independence to women who have long depended on their husbands and families; as well as maintains cultural structure and pride in the community.
Carpet of Life started in 2009 when Butterfly Works (a creative and strategic partner in global social innovation projects) teamed up with Zaïla (a local organization in M’Hamid in the Southeast of Morocco, led by the brothers Ibrahim and Halim Sabai) to help a Moroccan architect with a project to build and design an ecolodge.
Since January 2015 Carpet of Life has been in the hands of Hendrikje & Marion Meyvis- sisters and social entrepreneurs based in Belgium. We had the pleasure of getting to talk with Marion about Carpet of Life and some of its background.
How was the concept of Carpet of Life developed? What inspired this project to come about?
M’Hamid El Ghizlane used to be called Taragalte and was one of the major towns of the Draa province. Taragalte was the last oasis that camel caravans would pass through before entering the Sahara, and is therefore also known as ‘the door to the Sahara’. 35 years ago, due to economic, political and environmental hardship, nomadic communities were forced to stop the caravan trade and settle and create new lives in the oasis. With most men working far away and starting new families, it is the women and children especially that live in hardship. This was the starting point for the co-creation of a social brand, initially to produce interior design products for an ecolodge.
How was the relationship with the women in M’hamid El Ghizlane formed?
When we researched the local context we found that most women do not have a formal source of income and often live from working on the land or that they are financially supported by their husband or family. The women in the region are mostly illiterate and did not receive a formal education. Many women are still able to do crafts, but techniques are slowly disappearing as they often lack the financial means to buy raw materials to work with and mass produced items from places like China are becoming readily available even in the smallest villages. On this basis, the aim of the social brand was set: increase the income level of the women by means of providing the women access to new markets, improving self-confidence and supply them with scarce materials: textile!
In ‘the West’ we have an ‘oversupply’ of clothes. You probably know the feeling, looking at your favorite shirt or dress that is too old to wear but you can’t let it go. All those fond memories it carries…
In co-creating we offer a solution for both worlds: 1) your overstock of meaningful clothes 2) the lack of textile in the region of Mhamid.
What is the most rewarding thing about working with such a company?
We think the most rewarding part of having a social business such as Carpet Of Life is to see how the empowerment of women developed over the years, due to Carpet of Life and the trainings (reading/writing) we give that come along with the project. Next to this, Ibrahim Sabai stated:
“The most important thing for me about Carpet of Life is the exchange of cultures. There is exchange on many levels. It starts with the women from M’hamid who come together. This is not obvious in the context of this region where many women stay inside. So they come together, drink tea, tell stories and work together. Their hands literally knot exchanges together. Secondly, the material the women work with come from the Netherlands, Belgium. It is used clothing with often a special meaning for the people who ordered the carpet. This is also a form of exchange. Thirdly, the carpets are in the tradition of the way the women initially made their carpets. What I like very much is that it is a continuation of their way of working, only adapted to the 21st century. And finally there is also the exchange of cultures between Carpet of Life and the people in M’hamid. This enlarges the world of the women who make the carpets and it enlarges the world of the partners in Belgium/Netherlands.”
At the last festival of Taragalte (January 2015), for example, we held a ‘women ceremony’ to praise the women in the region in general and espeically our craftswomen. If you know that four years ago the women did not even enter the festival and now they were entering the festival with more or less 100 women living in the (nearby) villages; this gives us a very warm feeling. Seeing that they are gathering, uniting, enjoying the music and some even danced…
If there is one thing you’d want readers to know about Carpet of Life, what would it be?
Buying a Carpet of Life, is buying FAIR DESIGN. It’s a personal story. Traveling to Morocco, improving the quality of living and providing cultural exchange which results in a unique design piece.