Beni Ourain – A Treasure of Design

by Paris on July 26, 2016

A recent star rising to fame in the world of home décor and interior design is the Beni Ourain rug. This unique snapshot of an entire culture is taking the industry by storm and causing a slew of interest into where these rugs come from, how they’re made, and why they’re a modern necessity. In addition to being a lovely centerpiece in your living or sitting room, this seemingly simple piece of furniture carries a strong backstory that begins in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

The Beni Ourain are a Berber people representing close to 17 different tribes. The inhabitants of this area of Morocco are mainly farmers, shepherds, and goat herders who migrate with their herds. They survive the mountains and use their handcrafted rugs for practical rather than decorative purposes. The carpets they create are thick and durable which make them perfect for helping keep warm atop a mountain in winter. The Beni Ourain people use the rugs as bedspreads, blankets, and sometimes clothing.

The true uniqueness of these rugs lies in the hands of the women creating them. These carpets are woven by hand on looms that are portable due to the nomadic lifestyle of these mountain dwelling artisans. The craft is typically perfected by the women of the tribe who pass on the knowledge and experience of rug making directly to their daughters who then carry on the tradition for generations to come. Each rug tells a story of the weaver’s life and contains symbols representing topics such as birth, fertility, good luck, religion, and nature. Many of the tribe’s members even believe the carpets have powers to keep away evil spirits which contributes to the common occurrence of symbols related to good luck and prosperity.

Along with the personal touch of the artisan, these rugs also stand out because of the materials used to craft them. The rugs are knit together with wool sheared directly from the sheep and goats that the Berber people tend to on a daily basis. Next, the sheared wool is spun into yarn which the women then use to craft the carpets. Normally, the Beni Ourain rug has a signature cream or white background with dark brown symbols throughout the design. The only colors used on the rugs are all natural dyes or colored wool from the sheep and goats themselves.

The western world began to take note of these rugs beginning in the 1920s and 1930s in Paris, France. Their use continued into the mid-modernist era and still remained a popular choice even into the 1970s. The simple but resilient design has again caught the eye of designers who consider these pieces to be be a timeless staple. Now presented with a contemporary generation craving simplicity and a sense of neutral warmth at home, designers are again calling upon the ever faithful beauty of the Beni Ourain’s workmanship. These carpets bring a sense of personal touch into a world of technological disconnect ; in a world now moving toward functionality and minimalism, the prints on the carpets crafted by these Moroccan tribal artists reminds us of a simpler time in human history that carries on even today and tugs at our heartstrings.

Leave a Comment

Previous post: