Zayane is a confederation which consists of many tribes (Ait Bouhadou, Imrabten, Ibouhssousen and Ait Lahsen or Said which represent 65% of the Zayan tribes) surrounding the city of Khénifra in the middle Atlas Mountain. The inhabitants of Zayane are native Berbers known for their attachement to their own style of life, tradititons and crafts. Speaking of crafts, this region is famous for the production of a unique type of rugs that represents the culture of the Zayane woman.
The Zayane or ”Izaïanes” rug comes from the Ait Oumalou Amazigh tribe of Morocco. Amalou is a Berber word that means “shadow”. It’s a word used to designate the Middle Atlas Mountains where the Amazigh inhabit “the shadowy slope” in wooded terrain with difficult access and harsh climate that will forge the tenacious temperament of the Berber personality. The Ait Oumalous were reputed to be indomitable, eager for excessive independence, which explains why the Zayan tribe is renowned for its attachment to the ancient land and their struggle for independence. We can see this value in the rugs that the women woven. The motifs are not always clear and the dominant colors are strong and rather dark. Clearly, such handmade authentic rugs aren’t comparable to industrial rugs because they have a lot of character and stories behind. They are not just rugs, but also an important heritage that is transcended from generation to generation.
Their living space which goes from the big cedar of Ajdir to Boujaad border of the Arabic speaking tribes. The Zayan tribes are known for their warlike tenacity especially during the colonization under the leadership of Mouha or Hammou Zayani who had put the settlers in trouble during the conquest of Khénifra. Despite the French defeat of 13 November 1914 at the battle of Elhri where the French army was humiliated, the strategists of the colonization were determined not to abandon the struggle against the Zayanis which constitute a bastion of the rebellion.
The Zayane culture distinguish itself with its specificities from other Amazigh cultures. The most concrete example of Amazigh culture is the Ait Hdidou (tribe of Ait Yaflmane) of Imilchil where is organized annually a great festival of a typical cultural dimension proper to Amazighs.
Although they were among the first inhabitants of Morocco from the north and east, and since the Neolithic era, the Berbers of the Middle Atlas lived in a very isolated, closed and hermetic community, contrary to the thesis of European explorers which suppose the homogeneity between the tribes. Now the tribe constitutes an entity with its specified without obvious relations even with the neighboring tribes. Talking about “Tamazgha” (Maghreb territory) as a purely Berber geographic area remains a taboo subject.
The most important characterizations of zayane rugs are the use of many variations of diamonds and half diamonds motifs. In addition to that, the Berber women of Zayane use a technique in their weaving called “reverse-pile”, which means that the weavers regard the pile side- in which the threads of the carpet run- to be the back of the rug. Moreover, the size of a Zayan rugs is considerably long, making them suitable for bedding as well as floor coverings.
The diamond motif, which is frequently used in Zayane weavings, holds a symbolic significance that the weavers are unaware of, even though their ancestors knew the meaning behind each motif. This is, maybe, due to the fact that these motifs lost their meaning in their journey from generation to generation. So, the diamond motif is one of the berber motifs that stand for femininity, for its shape refers to the concept of the vagina and the womb, or in general the mother’s body. When the weaver uses this motif, she unconsciously expresses her desire to become a mother as one of the most supreme wishes of a woman in general.
Clearly, these Zayane rugs are valuable not just because of their quality and beauty, but most importantly, because they are an entrance to the hearts of the weavers, telling us their unique stories, secrets and wishes.