Tuesday, October 12, 2010

One Door Closes, Three More Open

Hi Friends,

I'd like to thank you personally for following my blog with such dedication over the last several years. At this point, I regret to say that the blogging at {from} Warp {to} Weft has reached a momentary lull.

Instead I am redirecting my posting to two three new places:

1. Kantara's monthly newsletter:

Sign up for Kantara's Monthly Newsletter


For Email Newsletters you can trust
2. Twitter updates:

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3. Kantara on Facebook:

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It's been a good run and I look forward to seeing you soon.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kantara's Education Fund

Kantara is committed to reinvesting a portion of its proceeds into local education and literacy initiatives and capacity building efforts among weaving cooperatives. Kantara currently makes small grants on a continual basis to organizations within Morocco.

The correlation between labor and education is important; the 40% illiteracy rate in rural areas and lack of sufficient schooling subvert the female artisans’ control over the sales of their own products.

By addressing fair-trade wages and reinvestment in education programs for local artisans, Kantara not only eliminates the need for exploitative middle men, but it also promotes educational development within rural Moroccan communities.

Education vocational development projects that have been funded to date include the following:
• Outfitted public schools in Taznakht with tables, chairs, and more. Read more...
• Provided silk-screen kits to women’s vocational organization in Boujaad. Read more...
• Bought digital cameras for cooperatives to record their finished products.
• Subsidized the salary for teachers of adult computer literacy classes. Read more...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Kantara's Talk at New York Public Library

I will be presenting at the Mulberry Branch of the New York Public Library this coming Wednesday, July 14th at 6:30pm.

The event entitled "Mint Tea and Moroccan Carpets; an Interactive Learning Experience" will include photos, videos, and anecdotes from my most recent trip to Morocco as well cultural, historical and political information about rural artisan work in Morocco.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Return from Morocco

I have just returned from Morocco; sadly I was not able to write as much as I would have liked, but the stories, the videos, the images are there, percolating below the surface, ready to be written down once more.

For the first time, I had very little contact to internet and did not seek it out. I was on a mission, traveling from one cooperative to another, trekking along the westernmost limit of the Sahara, down through the sandy plains and buttes, skirting the water's edge, and then curving back through the mountains, only to emerge in Marrakech, en route to the coastal urban city centers of Casablanca and Rabat.

In my last few days in Morocco, I finished a light read, The Tattooed Map, by Barbara Hodgson. A modern-day Bowlesian novel about disappearance and intrigue in Morocco. This book had one passage at the end that caught my eye. Like my own trip to Morocco, the denouement of this book also signaled the end of the protagonist's trip to Morocco:
The caf├ęs draw us in with more than the promise of a cold drink and a shady terrace or air-conditioned salon-- we've become part of the city and need to watch it pass by. The noises are now accepted as bearable, the odors welcome sensory signals, the glare of the sun off the streets and buildings a necessary part of the dream. A dream it is, as we would never belong here no matter how welcome we were made to feel. So it's time to move on before delusion takes over completely.
As it tends to happen, once you finally become comfortable and at ease in any country, especially in Morocco, your trip is over and it is time to leave. At this point, I leave my 'Moroccan dream' with only good memories, unforgettable experiences, and a lot of energy to sell more Moroccan rugs, launch the photojournalism project, Untangling Threads, and plan my next trip to Morocco next year.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Full on Photography

Day one and we're hitting the ground running. On Moustapha's family's rooftop in Fes we find all the extra scraps of bread. In Morocco it is h'shuma, or shameful to throw away bread, so families dry it out, and bring it with them when they travel to the countryside while visiting their extended family.

Day two, and we're in Ain Leuh already. Here we are in the workroom of Tissage Ain Leuh. I take advantage of a random moment when Anna is not behind her camera and snap a picture of her with Drissia sitting at a loom behind her.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Getting Lost in Fes

These winding streets of Fes' medina I can navigate without a problem.

The problem comes when I actually have to leave the city. I spent 2 hours in the car yesterday going in circles and circles trying in vain to find the road to Azrou and Ain Leuh.

When I finally arrived in Ain Leuh, the women looked at me blankly and got right to the point:
Ma 3ndeksh shi-kharita?
You don't have a map?
Sheepishly, I responded, uh... no, I guess I don't.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Camera Skills Workshops

The car is already in my posession and I am counting down the hours before Anna arrives. I am putting the final touches on my pending trip to the Moroccan countryside in search of Moroccan rugs.

One of the things we had planned for the trips to the villages was to run workshops on camera usage. The following is a powerpoint that we will share with the women in the various villages. Each workshop will be accompanied by a practical application section where the women get hands on experience working the digital cameras.

Thanks again to everyone who donated a camera to the Kantara's Education Fund for this project!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Political FIFA: Between Morocco, the US, and Algeria

Yesterday marked a momentous occasion as France incredulously lost 2-0 to the futbol-frenzied Mexican team in Round 1 of the FIFA world cup. More surprising than Mexico's upset of the favored contender, however, was the fact that France's dismal performance was practically celebrated by most Moroccans I met. When pressed, the only reason had for their sudden Mexican loyalty was an aversion to Nicolas Sarkozy. In their minds, Sarkozy was bad, ergo the French team was bad. This was quite the change from the last World Cup semifinals when most Moroccans lined up faithfully behind Zidane and the French, shouting, "allez les bleus." But then again, during the last World Cup, Sarkozy had yet to rear his head.

But that was then. This is now. The French, Italians, and Mexicans aside, I can't stop thinking about the upcoming Algeria vs. United States World Cup match that will take place Wednesday, June 23rd. I can't stop thinking that this is going to be another of those tell-tale events of epic proportions.


It's simple. In the political battlefield, we know which way the cards will fall. I did not need an Oberlin education in International Politics to know that the North African countries are wildly different despite sharing a common patrimony, language, and religion. I did not have to live in Morocco to understand the depth of the animosity that exists between Algeria and Morocco. I also did not have to start my Moroccan rug-importing business, Kantara Crafts to know exactly how long-standing the bilateral Moroccan-US ties are and how much respect there is in Morocco for the United States.

That being said, it seems that the political leanings of yore have no bearing on the FIFA World Cup powerplay. In the game of soccer-- or football, if you will-- overnight allegiances may shift, order may be overturned, the unthinkable may happen, and alas, Morocco may choose Algeria as the favored contender... over the United States!

Is it truly possible? To me it seemed unlikely, given what I knew of Morocco's political relationship with both Algeria and the United States, which is why I did my homework. I asked around, and the answer has resoundingly been that come Wednesday, Morocco will resoundingly support Algeria, maloume.

It remains to be seen, but for the moment, all is fair in love and war... and FIFA.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Welcome to Morocco, eh?

At some point in the wee hours of the night, suspended ethereally over the Atlantic Ocean, my rising tide of nervousness and anxiety ebbed away to be replaced by excitement and anticipation.

By the time I actually landed in Casablanca, any feelings of anything had long since been replaced by pure exhaustion. After 16 hours of transit, a day and a half airplane food, and two days of no sleep, my head was spinning and all I could think about was a nice long shower and nap once I reached Rabat. From Casablanca to Rabat it would only take two more hours, inchallah.

No sooner had I realized that, when I remembered that a friend living in Casablanca had left me his car at a nearby train station so that I could drive all my luggage to Rabat. I never look a gift horse in the mouth, and as you know, I love driving in Morocco... but still!

In the end, I went from airplane, to train, to car in less than a half hour, and before I knew it, there I was-- on the freeway, heading... north? As usual, with no map to my name, I hit the road and hoped for the best.

I could tell I was a little rusty though when I reacted to the kids sprinting across the highway in front of my speeding car. I could tell that I had been gone too long when I was momentarily shocked at bus that pulled over on the side of the freeway to let people on and off. I could tell that I was back in Morocco when I saw the small truck piled high with living room furniture that towered two stories over the smallish vehicle. I knew I was back on the road when somehow the two lane highway had five lanes of cars drifting this way and that as though the lines never even mattered.

Needless to say, I arrived in Rabat in one piece, and collapsed into what seemed like a million pieces as I fell into the deepest sleep ever...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Morocco 2010 Travel Itinerary

Here it is, the rough itinerary for the 2010 Untangling Threads Moroccan Trip through the bled Maghrebi in search of Moroccan rugs.

View Untangling Threads Morocco Trip in a larger map

It's going to be a whirlwind tour from the northern Middle Atlas mountains near Fes, all the way down to the desert south near Ouarzazate. Over the two weeks that we're on the road, we'll stop at three cooperatives (Ain Leuh, Ait Hamza, Taznakht), three urban cities (Rabat, Fes, Marrakech), and a couple other villages (Ait Ouifi, Anzal, Agaouim).

It looks like we have our work cut out for us!