BENI MGUILD, MOROCCO'S MAGIC CARPET
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ALL ABOUT BENI MGUILD RUGS
A Beni Mguild rug was also the back drop for style icon Yves Saint Laurent’s avant guard runway collection in 1969. Beni Mguild rugs are those Moroccan beauties whose saturated pink, red, peach, blue, and ochre backgrounds set the tone for warmth and joy in interior design. Many 20th century designers have been captured by the unique personality of Moroccan Berber rugs, whose abstract and geometrical motifs are the vanguard of modernist and post-modernist style. Le Corbusier famously said, "Do as the Berber do: marry imagination to the most recognisable geometry, but define the imagination.” And with that in mind, he showcased Moroccan Berber rugs in his Maison La Roche-Jeanneret and Pavilion de l’Esprit Nouveau.
Le Corbusier believed Moroccan Berber rugs to be such an element of luxury that he was prompted to exclaim, they practically “flicker on the floor.” Le Corbusier is known to have compared Moroccan Berber rugs to the cozy sensation of a bonfire or a bearskin rug in winter. And neither did the boldly colored Beni Mguild escape the imaginations of Charles and Ray Eames, who placed the rugs in richly decorated terra-cotta and burnt siena shades in their California home in the early 60s.
We wanted to know more about the Beni Mguild, so we traveled to Morocco to learn about rug weaving techniques that date back several millennium and still inform the craftsmanship of the region today. For thousands of years in the near East, carpets have inspired literature, art and music. The art of rug making is one of the common threads that tie cultures together through the centuries. In Morocco, by way of migration and trade, those cultures include Arabs from Andalusia, Black Africans from sub-Saharan and West Africa, as well as Ottoman Turkish. The mingling of cultures introduced new colors, symbols, motifs, and materials to an already thriving Berber textile tradition. The Beni Mguild rug was born of this dynamic cultural fusion.
The Beni Mguild developed from a conflux of cultures. The Berbers entered what is now modern-day Morocco around 1500 BC, bringing with them the skilled weaving traditions learned from the Phoenicians, who occupied the area known as the Levant. This may sound surprising, given the distances. But not so much when you understand that the Mediterranean has long been an effectual mixing pot of vastly different societies. Morocco itself represents a confluence of influences. These include Amazigh, Arab, Islamic, Sahrawi, Sub-Saharan African, Mediterranean, Andalusia, Jewish, European and more. And, for more than 300 years, the nearby regions of Tunisia and Algeria were part of the Turkish empire. In the late 16th century Turkish textile design became popular in the region of Rabat-Sale.
The birthplace of the Beni Mguild rug is a charming region of contrasts, with fertile green wheat fields and legume farms juxtaposed near to the Islamic dynasty cities — the fascinating town of Fez, the imperial city of Meknes. And the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis also play a role in the area. The most unusually fine Beni Mguild pile rugs have their origin in the central Middle Atlas circa 1920s/30s. Some Beni Mguild originate from an area in the western foothills of the Middle Atlas north, north-west of Boujad, Morocco. The Middle Atlas stands entirely within Moroccan borders, and is the northernmost of the three Atlas ranges.
In Spring, the Middle Atlas reveals humble villages, gentle mountain trails, and cedar forests. The rivers, Moulouya and Oum Er-Rbia run through the range. And many peaks exceed 8,000 feet, the highest being Mount Bou Nasser. This is Morocco’s breadbasket, an extraordinarily vibrant area of the country. And it has been home to some of the best rug weavers in Morocco. Rug weaving has flourished here since the 7th century and everything is done by hand on a staggering scale. Small workshops are tucked away across cities, towns and rural hamlets. Every square meter of what’s produced here is exported across the world, and the craftsmanship can be exceptionally high.
The oldest known Beni Mguild, legacies of the region’s knotting culture, date from the the 1920s and 30s. Older Beni Mguild rugs tell us that both richly patterned rugs and more sparsely decorated rugs were being produced as early as the turn of the 20th century. Morocco’s textile trade began as early as the 7th century, when the Berbers converted from Pagan to Islam. Islam brought no small influence on Berber weavings, changing the weavers’ entire mode of expression. And by the 9th century, new trade routes between sub-Saharan and West Africa had brought new motifs and symbolism. But the Beni Mguild rug has been a source of pride for the weavers, predominantly women. And owing to the particular location, it is not surprising that the Beni Mguild appears to be a mingling of several rugs styles. These include the grand, stoic, primitive Beni Ourain, and the stately, regal Andalusia-Arab and Ottoman-Turkish styles of Rabat.
The women of the Middle Atlas would weave Beni Mguild rugs to use in their own homes. The pile and loose structure of the rugs were a response to the need for bedding and effective warmth during the cold months. But there is evidence that Beni Mguild were traded in the imperial cities of Fez and Meknes. With their nomadic neighbors in the High Atlas, the weavers of the Beni Mguild found a mutual affinity for intricate diamond patterns. From trade with merchants in the urban centers of the coastal plains, the weavers were introduced to the Andalusian-Arab preference for more saturated color. The magic that is the Beni Mguild appears to rest in its sublimely modern fusion between dynastic empire luxury and tribal nomadic stoicism.
The pulsing life of these rugs is found in the roiling vortexes of line and color, in delicate pointillist movements, and in the almost lyrical play of form and space. Striking, unconventional compositions reflect all the joy and drama and sublime spirituality of small town life. But also, the close proximity of nature.
The most radical, abstract boucherouite styles call to mind a Saharan oasis at dawn, an Atlas mountain sunrise, a shimmering valley stream in late afternoon, a walk along a craggy mountain path to the village well, or a bowl of cous-cous. The colors of earth and sunlight, loosely interpreted with subtle harmonies and bold contrasts.
The Berber woman's unconscious experimentation with the changing mood and light of her immediate environment can been seen in the most superb examples of the boucherouite. As in the finest examples of modern art, the boucherouite rug presents a kind of direct relationship between the outer world and emotional sensitivities of the weaver. Able to express her passions at the head of a loom, the Berber woman often employs intensely resonant, otherwise un-realistic color.
The effect is modern art on par with the Fauves and the Cubists. Bright, synthetic color becomes a means of personal expression, for describing the tribal weaver's spatial environment, as well as for communicating her emotional state. Large blocks of color create a deliberate sense of mood, which is then interrupted by the tiny playful rhythms of pointillist dots, cubes, and rectangles. The most prized boucherouite rug mingles shape, form, and light to create a harmonious visual tone that is calming and at the same time surprising, even disorienting.
When this occurs, the boucherouite rises above the simple rag rug to the level of modern art - expressive, decorative, and sometimes monumental. It is for the possibility of infinite expression and richness of emotion, for its joyousness and celebration of life's simplicities, that the boucherouite has begun to beguile artists and collectors everywhere.
In the visual poetry of the boucherouite, the Berber woman creates a light-filled atmosphere through an identification with nature and its rhythm, and by tapping that spiritual connection with the subconscious that allows her to express herself in her own language. The most striking of boucherouite rugs never betrays the labors it has cost the weaver to create such a masterpiece.
🌿 formerly PINK RUG Co.
Formerly known by the name Pink Rug Co., we offer chic vintage Moroccan rugs that conform to the sleek minimalist style that ruled during the mid-20th century. And now we also specialize in the sumptuous vintage-washed custom Beni Ourain - a stunning example of the style, talent and creative forces of weavers perched on a rolling hill in the Beni Ourain mountains. Modern, timeless and joyfully abstract, our hand-selected collection of Boucherouite and definitive custom Beni Ourain embody the luxurious minimalist style that made regional rugs prized design accessories with Le Corbusier and the modernists.
Rugs ship safely and securely from Marrakesh, Morocco by DHL. Rugs are guaranteed to arrive to you. All rugs are washed before shipping. So please allow 2 weeks for us to prepare your rug after purchase. Transit time is about a week to anywhere in the world. Customs duties depend on country. The US has a free trade agreement with Morocco.
Unless rugs are damaged during shipping, all sales are final. Please ask all questions before buying, and review photos carefully.