Moroccan Berber carpets Motifs and Symbols
Moroccan Berber carpets are coveted for several reasons: their unique earthy character and lack of symmetry; their abstract impact; their soft hand-spun woollen pile; the creativity of their weavers; and their stunning motifs and symbols, combined to create complex messages and stories rooted in Berber rural life.
The motifs and their meanings are part of a tradition that has remained mostly independent, as Berber tribes preferred to remain isolated in their settled or semi nomadic communities.
But what do these beautiful designs signify, and how should we understand them?
Typically, designs relate to fertility, sexuality, survival, protection, and the natural world. For example, the main female symbols in Berber carpets are the lozenge, the chevron, and the X-shape. While a large single diamond could be a watchful guardian warding off evil, it could also be used to represent female attributes and fertility. An X could also be seen as a body with arms and legs spread out.
Male motifs tend to be straight lines, sticks, ribbons, or twig-and-ladder like symbols. These male motifs rarely appear in carpets alone, and interestingly, can often be seen on the outer edges of the carpets, with female motifs within these edges.
The meaning of many symbols has been lost over time, and although mothers and grandmothers have passed specific motifs and designs down through generations, weavers might say they simply weave what they learnt and can’t express what it means.
Berber designs, even when reflecting certain tribal traditions and beliefs, were intensely personal, and to that end, they must be interpreted with care, as we simply don’t know what certain designs were intended for or how to translate them. And to do so, we would also need to understand the songs, cultures and legends of different tribes.
It’s amazing to know that some of the simple basic shapes used in Berber carpets – the lozenge, chevron, X-shape, straight line with hatching, and so on – can also be found as abstract signs in European cave art and in horn or bone, dating from 30,000 to 10,000 BC.
Maroc Tribal has been collecting rare and vintage Berber pillows and cushions, and now has started to make some of these treasures available on its website