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Posts Tagged ‘rug’

Habibi Bazaar

Photo: Bianca Velasquez.
A rug called “Evil Eye,” by Pamela El Gergi.

Today’s story about beautiful craft rugs is reminding me of a college friend who was really into interior decorating. As a hobby. She got so enthusiastic about Scandinavian rya rugs that she began designing and selling her own. Nowadays, when I’m supposed to be replacing rugs with floor coverings that older people won’t trip on, I’m wishing that I had bought one one of her ryas. I could at least hang it on the wall if I was afraid of tripping. Like other crafts, rugs can hold a lot of meaning.

Bianca Velasquez reports at Hyperallergic about Utah-based Lebanese American artist Pamela El Gergi who “modernizes traditional rug-making as a way to stay connected to her heritage.

“A sweeping reclamation of traditional craftsmanship is taking place around the world,” Velasquez says, “with artists forming communities around their uses of stained glass, jewelry, beading, and textiles. Seemingly unapproachable crafts (because of restricted access to supplies or apprenticeship), such as rug-making and stained glass, have benefited from modernized and simplified techniques and technologies that make practicing these trades more accessible, creating a surge of independent creators who work at their own pace and through their own lens. …

“Among the new voices is Lebanese rug maker Pamela El Gergi, who creates her works under her business name Habibi Bazaar.

“Having relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah, from Beirut, Lebanon, in 2018, El Gergi felt an urge to keep an open connection to her hometown, which she found through the traditional craft of rug-making. … ‘Habibi Bazaar uses my own personal style, which is Oriental rugs, evil eyes (Nazar), patterns that you would see in churches and mosques in Lebanon,’ she told Hyperallergic in an interview.

“And while she applies her voice and background to rug-making in the US, El Gergi creates a new dialogue within traditional rug-making in Lebanon. ‘I’ve taken these vintage, older styles of Oriental rugs, and now I’m trying to make them more centered around Lebanese culture,’ she said. ‘We don’t have much Lebanese representation within Oriental rugs.’ …

“After finalizing her design, El Gergi projects and traces the outline onto her canvas, then uses the tufting gun to apply the yarn accordingly. After applying the carpet glue and backing to the other side of the fabric, she moves on to the final step. ‘I spend hours on each rug, shaving it properly and carving out the designs (or “sculpting” the rug). I finish it all with vacuuming, lint rolling, and doing one last quality check,’ she said.

“El Gergi is currently working on a rug collection in collaboration with her peer Samantha Nader who has created seven Oriental designs based on El Gergi’s concepts. ‘What makes this collection significant to me is the specific flower that is included in the design. This flower is printed on Lebanese coffee cups, and when you drink Arabic coffee, the grounds are collected at the bottom,’ El Gergi said. ‘Then you flip the cup over, and you let the grounds fall along the sides. After letting it sit for five minutes, it reveals a pattern that tells your fortune.’ …

“El Gergi’s pieces tend to use this medium to shed light on her experience as a Lebanese woman, as well as pay homage to and honor the cultural symbolism that has been passed down through her family for generations. 

“Creating cultural ties between Lebanon and the US does not stop at rug-making for El Gergi. Habibi Bazaar also kicked off a pronoun shirt campaign in collaboration with Mexican artist Alethia Lunares, who designed the t-shirt graphic. … She produced three different shirts saying ‘She, Her, Habibi,’ ‘They, Them, Habibi,’ and ‘He, Him, Habibi.’ El Gergi’s decision to include the term ‘Habibi,’ which translates into a non-gendered way of saying ‘my love,’ allows her to incorporate a little bit of her culture into the campaign.

“This year, Habibi Bazaar has been accepted to the 14th Annual Craft Lake City DIY Festival Utah’s ‘largest local-centric art, music, science, and technology festival.’ Not only has she been accepted as a vendor, she was also chosen to be sponsored through the Craft Lake City Artisan Scholarship Mentor Program, allowing her to be mentored by a more tenured local business owner through the entire process of tabling at a large event. 

‘[Her booth] will include her rugs, pottery, stickers, wall hanging, mirrors, and more. … Most importantly, El Gergi hopes to continue finding contemporary ways to pass down traditional Lebanese crafts to future generations.”

More at Hyperallergic, here.

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102320moroccan_women_carpet_market

Photo: Taylor Luck
Bargaining over a Berber rug in Khemisset, Morocco.

Yesterday I mentioned to Nancy that the pandemic may have affected the timeliness of some of the stories I’ve collected for future blog posts. I wasn’t sure, for example, if the Berber women who weave carpets and manage their markets in Morocco were still working.

Today I found a late May report indicating the weavers work from home and continue to produce for export companies despite Covid-19 lockdowns. So I think I can share this article from the Christian Science Monitor. When it’s safe to return to public spaces, I’m counting on women like these to be fully in charge once again.

Taylor Luck writes, “The carpet palace is at the far end of the bustling, dusty, weekly outdoor market here. Past heaps of wheat and grain, mounds of clothes, and piles of sandals and animal feed is a rust-colored structure with vaulted archways and bushels of thread and fabric.

“But visitors drawn by the allure of Berber rugs of every hue must abide by one important law: Inside this palace, women rule.

“For here at Khemisset’s zarabi souk – literally ‘rug market’ – women are the shearers, weavers, mediators, sellers, and distributors. There is no room for men in their business model – and they like it that way.

“Moroccan connoisseurs know their straight-from-the-source products: the minimalist, black-and-white geometric weaves of the Beni Ourain; the colorful reds, blues, yellow symbols, and wavy lines of the Azilal tribe; patchwork confetti-like Boucherouite rugs of leftover textile scraps; the blue-and-red, lightweight, tightly-nit kilims.

“Anyone who wishes to fill their tourist bazaar, auction house, hotel, or travel bag with these intricate multicolor Berber rugs must first go through these merchant matriarchs. … The women of Khemisset know more than their carpets; they know how to drive a hard bargain.

“Situated 60 miles east-southeast of Rabat and nestled in the plains below the Berber-inhabited Middle Atlas Mountains, Khemisset is a bilingual town of Berbers and Arabs. It has long been a natural trading post where Berber farmers and craftswomen from the mountain villages and rural hinterlands sell to urban, mainly Arab clientele. For the past three decades, women from the town have teamed up with relatives and contacts from the outer villages to sell carpets and rugs directly to vendors. …

“Khemisset merchants such as Fatima Rifiya gather at the marketplace to await dozens of women from far-off Berber villages (locals refer to themselves as Amazigh, which means ‘free people’) who arrive in horse-drawn carriages at 4 a.m.

“The sellers and middle-women then rummage through the piles of rugs, evaluating every piece by size, coloring, thickness, weave, and pattern. Khemisset women say their secret to success is an eye for desirability – fitting each carpet to the target audience and buyer who never knew they always needed it. …

“ ‘Once we grade the carpets, we explain to the weavers the values and who their customers may be, [and] we set a price and our commission,’ explains Ms. Rifiya, herself a transplant from a mountainous Berber village who now acts as a head matriarch and an Arabic translator. …

“Carpet dealers come from Marrakech and Fez. The men pace between the tiny stalls muttering, ‘Really, that is too much,’ or, ‘I swear to God, I can get half that price somewhere else.’ But Ms. Rifiya and her sisterhood stand their ground. She and some of the more veteran sellers such as Faten act not only as translators for the Berber weavers, but as coaches in the ways of bartering and selling.

“Simple rules such as: Never appear desperate for a sale. Let the customer walk away, they’ll always come back. Add 20% to your preferred price to open up bargaining. …

“This souk is not sponsored by a charitable association, a collective, or even a government or royal initiative to help rural women. Instead, it is an organic, grassroots product of local residents and shared interests.

“Here at the zarabi souk, women are selling individually yet banding together – an alliance driven by economic opportunity, supply and demand, and a dash of solidarity.

“It was not always like this. Three decades ago, most Berber weavers say they would sell to middlemen who would go off to market towns and sell at any price they wished, or to traveling ‘dealers’ who would purchase directly from village women for their bazaars and tourist shops. But each Berber woman would not know how much others were being paid for their work or what the market rate was for their carpets.”

Sounds like this market has made a real difference in people’s lives. Here’s hoping that post-Covid, these strong women will see to it that everything goes back to normal. More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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