Weavers#the time left, 2018
Dernière mise à jour : 10 mai 2021
Background of the project
I remember back in 2014 I was walking around the alleys of the old medina in Tetouan and then I got surprised by the presence of some machines in the weaving process at tarbeaa gawaza (an old place where all the weavers are gathered).
The old technique of sewing called ”Berchman” in Morocco that is now with the advent of the machine leaning towards disappearance and vanishing a whole body of artisans that practice this technique.
Sample of the Bechrman technique on a traditional clothing (djellaba)
This technique of sewing with silk threads, appeared in Morocco in the 15th century, during the reign of Almansour Addahabi, who was a keen of craftsmanship and traditional ornaments. The Berchman already existing in Turkey that time, the king incorporated this knowledge to the whole Moroccan artisanal body.
Tarbeaa Gawza, place where the artisans practice the Bercham, Tetouan (Mo)
The Berchmane Machine, Tarbeaa Gawza, Tetouan (Mo)
The Berchmane is a technique that is exercised manually,mainly in Marrakech, Fez, Ouazzane and Tetouan, practiced with two artisans: The Master (LMAALEM) and the apprentice (LMTAALEM) and that way this craft can be transmittable from one to another.
By the advent of the machine the transmissibility is endangered.
Photograph form the archive of Tetouan showing the master and the apprentice
Photograph by Pepe Ponce taken in 2008 showing the master of the berchmane and the apprentice working on Djellabah
In the context of my residency with the French Institute of Tetouan, a residency pf 2 months I had the opportunity to have a closer look in the subject
Residency program with the French Institute, Tetouan (Mo)
During this residency I aimed to push the works at the limit of the ornamentation and the necessity of the daily life, while researching about the daily lives of the weavers of the Tetouan and the advent of the machine.
I have decided to start with an old map of the old medina of Tetouan. The idea is to create a work this in parallel with this craft, the choice of the map was to highlight to geographical context of the research and also to work like the craftsman with their tools and materials.
The first shape of the map with the silk threads
In his description of knotting techniques when making carpets in Moroccan villages, Gérard Boëly refers to the work of Marcel Proust “In search of lost time” when Proust evokes a hotel room whose space is shrinking and extends. This alternation caused Proust, as he had described, an exquisite pleasure by uniting “the pleasure of concentration” and “the pleasure of deliverance”. For Boëly, the knotted zone with its warm colors would represent “the pleasure of concentration” while the black wool zones symbolize “the pleasure of deliverance”. In my research, I could not ignore this evocation, the master craftsman working the Berchmane seemed to me to do a work of knotting between the different parts that form the Djellaba, the traditional Moroccan dress.
I wanted during my research to understand the advent of the modern object namely the machine Berchmane by assimilating and trying to archive the few remaining values of this knowledge. A desire for archiving, condensation and especially concentration, accompanied my research and guided the state of mind of my work.
The first part of the map
I have treated the map as a Djellabah and worked by all the steps that this traditional cloth passes by.
The picture above shows the pins, and this is quite similar to how the wool is treated before becoming a fabric (which is the mainly fabric used in Djellabah).
Working manually on the silk threads in order to use is in the map
I have learned fro Maalem Abd Khalek, the yarn technique in order to prepare the silk threads for the map
While being with Maalem to learn to yarn the thread
Working on the map with the prepared threads
Les Bribes de soie, 2018 (The silk scraps), details
In “Les bribes de soie”, my first work on this subject where “the pleasure of concentration” is present by condensing the alleys and footbridges of the old medina of Tetouan, according to the map of Don Lorenzo Ortiz (1943 ). The medina with its physical and mental spaces, with its forms reminiscent of deconstructed Berchmane motifs, alleys through which circulated and passed on a knowledge from its apogee to its decline, from its great actions to thoughts under construction that are inspired from foreign wind to have the appearance of belonging to a globalized world that tends to dilute particularisms and identities. This knowledge, faced with the machine impoverishes and impoverishes the transmission. The works also shows a medina stretched in Procrustes, between two winds, two shores and a myriad of subcultures. Through this work I wanted to approach the essence of craftsmanship that engages the body in repetitive acts, and develops the patience to devote myself to a task, which in practice, seems to freeze time.
The geographical context of this research has not ceased to animate my research process, so in ‘Epitaphes’ are concentrated the elements that make the identity of Tetouan, namely water by the presence of Skundo (natural system of water supply in the Medina of Tetouan) and stone, the city being built on a limestone soil. The work consists of stones collected in Zerka (natural source) and Oued Martil, and it is inspired by the tradition of Suiseki (stone carved by water) which is a Japanese art relating to stones of particular shapes.
While looking in Zerka for the right stone
Zerka (the blue) water spring in the surroundings of Tetouan
The choice of the Japan reference was not dictated to me ex-nihilo but comes from the desire to awaken a certain consciousness: according to the Japanese model, which as our country is considered a source of traditions, crafts and silks making. It is a model that values the human potential that shapes its cultural identity, designating some people as “living national treasures” to safeguard essential intangible cultural goods. Awakening the awareness of the situation of most of the craftsmen who has deteriorated sharply is thus a crucial issue.
The collected stones
The selected stones for the engraving part
“Epitaphes”, condense the different elements said above and delivers some words / expressions / techniques and materials, at this time, due the omnipresence of the machine and the lack of awareness, are dedicated to extinction.
The Engraving part
I have collected some words that are not used nowadays in this crafts, and also expressions that vanished due the presence of the machine and also techniques that are now only linked to the history of the Berchamane.
From this perspective I have created a series of work that is devided into to sections: “what’s left” and “what was”.
“What’s left” is a series of drawings by the powder of Daphne gnidium (plant used to be used in the traditional dying if the silk threads) the the drawings are the stamp of some tools that are nowadays still used by the craftsmen like : spindle, thimble, pipe, cutter, pin, hook
the tools in order: hook, pipe, cutter, pin, spindle, thimble
drawings with the powder of Daphne gnidium
“What was” is a series pf painted canvas using traditional herbs and techniques for dying, these traditional uses are not anymore existing because of the industrial development
Using the natural herbs that in the past used for the dying of the silk threads
during my multiple visits to Tarbiate Gawza, I have recorded my discussions with the Abd lkhalek (the master) and and recorded the sound ambiance of the place, so in “Intermittence”,video work installation, I refer to gestures in the practice of Berchmane alternating sequences with each other with a sound background retracing the daily life of the artisans of “Taribate Algawza”.
Excerpt from the video “Intermittences”
The place of tarbiaa Gawaza is so special for the Berchamane, due it’s intimate surface and also the green of the shops, these shops that are now closed one after another after the passing of the master of each atelier, few are now the ateliers that are open but the threat of the disparition of these ateliers is quite present because of the age( no less than 60 years old) of the few masters left.
I prefer to see the scene of a master and apprentice doing the work than seeing a machine-facing this knowledge or a child dragging in the streets that have become a place of abuse of adult rights before those of children. Under the pretext that child labor is an abuse and that the right to schooling in schools that stutter, is of primacy, certainly, but learning can have several tracks including the work under guardianship of a master craftsman considering the task as extracurricular or lucrative activity for families to whom a tomorrow is a matter of survival. The real abuse is the one applying an international model to a country that flounders, to a system that flounders, to a knowledge that is now rare in transmission, a childhood that is considered just when it is a question of adhering to a stereotype that eradicates all peculiarities, to claim the concern.
From this comes the work “Les chutes” a triptych as a scenario of three sequences: the master and the apprentices, the master and the les apprentices and the machine and then final sequence where two ateliers closes and only one left
“Les chutes” details made by a collage of the leftover fabrics
Restitution of the residency
Exhibition view at THE CENTER OF MODERN ART in Tetouan The works shown: o “What’s left” and “what was” in two panel/ “Épitaphes” in the right and in the center “Les bribes de soie”
“Les bribes de soie” silk threads and pins on plywood 86×120 cm
“Epitaphs#apprentice” engraved stone, lacquered wood
“Epitaphs #extend the wire” engraved stone, lacquered wood
“Epitaphs#alternate the Berchman” engraved stone, lacquered wood
“Epitaphs#oak mealybug” engraved stone, lacquered wood
“Epitaphs#silk making” engraved stone, lacquered wood
“Les chutes” fabric collage on paper
“Intermittences” video installation
“What’s left” powder of Daphne gnidium on paper
“What was” dyed canvas with madder, pomegranate, gunpowder and Daphne gnidium