Keltouma and her daughter Soukina lead a group of 25 artisans from a Village just outside Beni M’rirt, in the Middle Atlas mountains. Founded in the early 2000s, the collective makes medium to high hand-knot rugs, as well as M’rirt Zanafi rugs, a style named after the region. Traditional rugs from this region use a thick knotting technique, which makes the rugs feel extra plush.
When did you learn how to weave and who taught you?
I grew up in Oued Zem which is nestled in the Middle Atlas Mountains just north of the town of Beni Mellal, the capital of the nearby region.
When I was eight years old my Mom and my Aunt taught me how to weave.
The first technique I was taught was the Hanbel style. When I was around fifteen I began to weave Hand-Knot rugs.
After marrying my husband, Lamari, I moved to his Village of Beni M’rirt. I worked for a handful of the big shops that had workshops in the surrounding area.
I decided to open up my own Association after my first two older children were born. I was unhappy with the working conditions and wanted to create a safer area for women to work.
Do you have a favorite technique to weave?
I love all the techniques from my surrounding region, Beni M’rirt, Beni Ourain, Beni M’guild, etc. Traditional rugs from this region use a thick knotting technique, which makes the rugs feel extra plush.
The style that I love to weave the most is the Beni M’rirt as it is the style named after the region I call home.
What rug do you cherish the most?
My favorite designs are ones that represent the surrounding landscape.
Most recently, my daughter Soukina made a rug that was inspired by the rolling hills and deep ravines of the Middle Atlas Mountains . I love that she is carrying on the tradition of weaving and has joined me as we work on running the workshops that we have in our Village.
What do you love to do beyond weaving?
Spending time with my kids and husband is what I cherish the most. I also love to cook. I’m currently making lots of chebakia as we get ready for Ramadan.
Thanks so much for the inspiring convo, Keltouma! Shop pieces woven by Keltouma and her colleagues below!
Translated by Abdellatif Mouhsine. Please note that some answers may have been edited or condensed for the sake of clarity.