Today marks the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. On this annual observance, we would like to share more about our women artisans who are all indigenous Moroccans.
Who are indigenous Moroccans?
Often referred to as “Berbers”, indigenous Moroccans are the original inhabitants of Morocco and the broader North African region.
The name “Berber” is derived from barbarian which is what the Romans called the indigenous Moroccans they colonized. That very unfortunate moniker stuck through the ages. Indigenous Moroccans refer to themselves as Amazigh which means “one who is free”.
The Amazigh people then and today
Through their 3,000 years long history, the Amazigh people were persecuted, deprived of their lands and women many times over.
Many instead of assimilating to the powers in place, entrenched themselves in some of the harshest and most unwelcoming parts of Morocco to be left in peace (mostly).
That is why many Amazigh descendants today can be found in the Rif Mountains, along the Atlas Mountains corridor and in the Sahara Desert. This geographical isolation allowed them to preserve their ethnic, linguistic and cultural specificity.
It came at a high cost though as life was and still is incredibly harsh in those regions. Because of the lack of resources and basic infrastructure in those isolated villages, rural Amazigh populations are most susceptible to poverty, illiteracy and child marriage in Morocco.
The Amazigh women today
The Amazigh culture is matriarchal, plural and decentralised. Women have been the keepers of the Amazigh language and traditions through the centuries. Some of their most popular ritual practises are carpet weaving, textile making, and land farming.
Making Argan oil, a tradition performed by Amazigh women for millennia, has infused a renewed sense of power and independence in the female Amazigh population. Due to the popularity of their ancestral beauty secrets around the world, many Amazigh women have started working and have become the bread winner and head of their families.
This status is hard earned as most of the process to make Moroccan plant-based skincare is still manual. The women work long and hard at transforming the nuts, seeds and flowers into the precious botanical extracts everyone loves using on their skin and hair.
The Amazigh women tomorrow
Tomorrow will be bright for Amazigh girls and women! Thanks to the hard work and sacrifices of their mothers and grandmothers, many girls are now on their way to finishing high school and even going to university.
As a few studies have now demonstrated, working Amazigh women lift their families out of poverty and the proceeds from their work is almost invariably reinvested in their communities. This has translated in an improvement of living conditions in some of those marginalized villages over the past 15 years.
Continuing to support these Amazigh women artisans is investing in the next generation of girls and a better future.
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Bob Melbourne is a zero-waste hair salon based in South Yarra. They turn your offcuts it into hair booms that get taken out to the Great Barrier Reef and help suck up oil spills.