A C H R O M E
Mid Century Modern White Berber Carpets
This exhibition is dedicated to a group of Middle Atlas Moroccan carpets distinguished by the use of natural, undyed wool. These weavings are characterised by a thick, lush pile and a loose handle, a texture which made them ideal for their use as beddings, with the pile side set against the floor of the tent, providing the warmth necessary to survive the cold temperatures of the Atlas mountains. It is a known fact that the most primitive types of carpets from Bronze Age Central Asia were intended for this purpose, the knot being originally woven in loops which is then then cut open to provide the pile. Indeed there is a specific sub-group of Berber carpets which still adopt this technique, indicating that carpet weaving in rural Morocco dates back to a very early period. Furthermore, many of the abstract, almost calligraphic patterns that embellish these carpets seem to derive from rural ceramics, decorated by black motifs on a neutral background, according to an iconography which has remained unchanged since the Neolithic.

The ancient modernity of these weavings didn’t escape the attention of some of the greatest masters of Twentieth century architecture and design. In the mid 1920’s Le Corbusier was the first to recognize the archaic character of Berber carpets, their asymmetrical repetition of lozenge elements providing the suitable backdrop for his minimalist interiors. In the early 1930’s Marcel Breuer, fascinated by the wild beauty of the carpet patterns he saw in Morocco, introduced Berber weavings at the Bauhaus, as he saw that they would contrast efficiently with the cool elegance of their designs. Frank Lloyd Wright employed Berber carpets in a few of his signature projects, ranging from his early works such as his own studio to the widely celebrated Falling Water in the thirties. Alvar Aalto and Arne Jacobsen took particular interest in the white Berbers of the Middle Atlas, the archaic wildness of their patterns being tamed by the relaxed bichromy of undyed wools. In the early seventies Verner Panton designed an entire collection of carpets (Maroc) hand woven in Morocco and inspired by the unique chromatism of this type of Berber weaving.

The new millennium has witnessed a rediscovery of mid century modern design, together with a general positive attitude towards minimalist interiors. This has had a great impact towards the reappraisal of Berber weavings as well, favouring the ones with less colour and design. Carpets of the Middle Atlas tribes such as the Beni Ouarain, Ait Segrouchene and Beni M’Guild are once again associated with the iconic works the modern masters of design. My aim has been to select a collection that is most representative of this association, bringing together a family of weavings that is not only homogeneous in origin and typology, but one that can be blended successfully with today’s most stylish interiors.

Bibliography:

Blazek, White Giants - Carpets of the Beni Ouarain and Related Moroccan Nomadic Tribes, HALI n. 94, pp. 68-74, London, September 1997.
Bichler, G. Blazek and H. Steinhauser, Berber Carpets in the Context of 20th Century Architecture, Catalogue of the San Francisco Tribal & Textile Arts Show, February 2005, pp. 12-17.
Reinisch and W. Stanzer, Berber - Tribal Carpets and Weavings from Morocco, Graz, 1991. K. Rainer, Morocco Mon Amour, Graz, 2005.

Back to: Menu