With a deeply rooted history inherent in every knot, the Berber technique is unlike its cousin to the east. Anthropologists have discovered traces of Berber motifs and tribal symbolism that date back to the earliest forms of rock art and cave paintings. A long transference of glyphs and markings is embedded in most Berber carpets like a time capsule from the distant past. These innate messages tell us the Berber weaving technique is even more ancient than one first perceives...
Without a standard written language, Berber weavers of the past recorded the myths and legends of their ancestors through archaic symbolism, incorporated with grace and precision into their textiles. These woven works of art are a doorway to the past, dating from the Upper-Paleolithic era. Anthropologists theorize that the Berber tribes of Morocco and Algeria may be the last untainted link to mankind's distant origins, as only in recent times have the Berber tribes received influence from the modern world. During their many centuries of remote isolation, the Berbers carefully preserved their heritage of technique and knowledge, passing down messages in wool from one generation to another.
While preserving history, the elemental nature of Berber weavings is an execution of pure instinct. Weaving is not only an inherent rite of passage but also an act of expression. The women that manifest these works have a story to tell: While some rugs document a personal experience, other weavings carry a more ancestral message passed down over time. Many of the artisans weave their tales organically, while others intentionally channel inherited knowledge into the loom. The life rituals of Berber women, including fertility, birth, and the protective role of the men, are narrated in an abstract form. It is pure coincidence that Berber carpets, with their simplistic form and geometric purity, appear modern to the Western eye, as each one is deeply rooted in ancient history.
The symbolism of the Berber tradition is often referred to as the 'Infinite Rapport', meaning the pattern and the spirit of the work extends beyond its physical borders. Many examples of Berber carpets show shifts in pattern, reflecting a change in life events, a different weaver taking over the rug, or spontaneous creative expression. As many Berber women believe the rugs are imbued with a spirit, either from the imprint of the artist, or from the living nature of the wool, they resist monitoring the progression of their work, often revealing the entire rug only after it has been completed. Once the deeply laborious weaving process is completed, the finished rugs are considered part of the family and are the prized possession of the home.
The Berber tribes of Northern Africa have lived between western Egypt and the Atlantic Ocean, Maghreb, since pre-recorded history began in the region 30,000 years ago. The story of the Berber carpet weaving tradition is a unique one. While most oriental carpets share a common DNA in relation to the Turkish knot technique, the Berber carpet has its own woven origin.