Amazigh Woman and The Tribal Identity.
Posted on 06 July 2017
The Amazigh woman's identity in garments is arguably one of the most preserved aspect of the explicit relationship between the women's fertility and nature's elements.
Throughout history, each tribe has vowed in one way or another to differentiate itself from other neighboring tribes.
Before the introduction of Islam to the northern African Imazighen tribes, tattoos were widely used by women to express their appertainance to a certain tribal congregation. Albeit the tradition has been increasingly disapearing over the years due to the arrival of the colonization and the settling of several tribes into several areas of the Atlas Mountains.
These tribes had to give up their nomadic life style and share a space with the Arab population. The Islamic teachings look at tattoos as a disgrace to the body which is supposed to be a gift from God that shouldn't be altered since it doesn't belong to the person but to the creator.
Thus, in order to fit into their new invironement, Amazigh women had to give up the tradition of tattooing and substitute it with displaying their identity via their garments and accessories.
One of the best examples of such an adjustment is the Ait-Atta, an enormous tribal congregation located southeast of Morocco around the Tafilalt oasis.
The women of Ait-Atta are known for their incomparable knotting and embroidery skills. Just like the Tuaregues, they chose an indigo died cotton fabric headcover to deferentiate themselves from other tribes: the Tahruyt.
This unique garment is made of two lengths of clothes joined together at the selvedges creating a line called Tanammast. The Ait-Atta women place it over the head and upper body while draping one end over the left shoulder. Sequins and tassels are added to the two short ends and arranged so when the garment is worn it frames the women's forehead.
When you take a closer look to the embroidery, you can notice the intimate relationship between Amazigh women and mother nature. The goal is to make the Tahruyt link the women's reproductive ability to nature's fertility.
The Tahruyt embroidery is made to look as a three dimensional representation of nature. In order to achieve such an effect, women have chosen to use contrasting colors to project the 3D effect by mirroring each motif using its complementary color in each side of the tanammast, and circular motives using yellow and red to represent the sun.
While the general outsider conception of the Amazigh woman is that she's confined to the restricted space of her house, the tribal expectation is for her to display publicaly the identity of her tribe within her body, clothing and accessories, making her the carrier of a message and the curator of continuity.