Fatiha Amrani, born in the Middle Atlas Mountains, had a future laid out for her: Marriage. However, her determination led her to become an Amazigh carpet-weaver.
Twenty-seven-year-old Fatiha Amrani dropped out of school at 16 to pursue art of Amazigh (Berber) weaving, making use of her childhood hobby and skills. Fatiha, who was raised in the patriarchal society of the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco, has set out on her own career of carpet-weaving.
Although she attended school in a remote village in the Middle Atlas Mountains near Aoumana village, Khenifra province, she picked up her artistic skills while watching her mother weaving Amazigh carpets.
“Hurrying on my way home from school, carrying a heavy school bag on my fragile back while walking in plastic sandals, my mind and heart were obsessed with weaving,” Fatiha said.
“At the age of 6, I started to weave my own models of new carpets which were mocked and disparaged by other women in the village. As a little girl, I couldn’t stand their envious giggles and glances, but I never stopped weaving because I wanted to do something not only different but also creative,” Fatiha explained.
Through some art classes in middle and high school, Fatiha found inspiration as they opened new horizons of creativity for her.
“When I was at the middle school in my village Aoumana and at high school in Khenifra city, I kept weaving along with attending my classes at school … and learned how to use and mix colours,” she said.
But at the age of fifteen, Fatiha’s life turned upside down.
“At high school, I got more enthralled with weaving creatively, I was even more possessed by threads, looms, and colors of nature,” she said. But Fatiha’s enthusiasm and passion were exclusively invested in weaving, and her grades suffered, ultimately leading to her dropping out of school.
As a dropout, Fatiha began to think of marriage as the only option for a teenage girl like herself living in the Atlas Mountains. Without a husband, she would be the subject of gossip.
When Fatiha failed her second year at high school, she received many marriage proposals and accepted two. But neither worked out. Her first fiancé had a quarrel with another interested man and his family, and the engagement was broken.
“I didn’t accept the marriage proposal at the beginning, but my fear of shameful rumors of being a single woman pushed me to accept. This ruined my life, and as a result, I dropped out of school,” Fatiha said with tears in her eyes.
Fatiha then decided to focus on her Amazigh weaving. Supported by her brothers and mother, she developed a vision for her art. “At the beginning only my brother, who is an artist, helped me. However, my relatives considered my work as trivial, insane, and a waste of time. They said it won’t be successful,” Fatiha narrated.
Her family’s support and her own child-like enthusiasm drove her to stick to her dream. “My mother understood this art because she has been weaving since she was a child, too, but relatives stood against me because of my ill health, up to today.”
She continued to narrate sadly that teen girls from her region are expected to find a husband when they hit 15. Otherwise their families will be ashamed. Often, the prospect of marriage means that young girls do not finish school or have the opportunity to develop their skills and become independent.
“In the eyes of society, married girls who can have kids and take care of the husband’s house and family are the most enviable ones.” Fatiha is fighting this stereotype by launching art associations with other artists, both women and men.
“Lately, I helped my family financially thanks to my artistic skills. I used to work outside the home to support myself and not be looked down on as a single woman by society. Girls here in this region are regarded as a burden, so at the age of 15, they start to get married and sometimes even younger,” she said.
Even though Fatiha’s art has achieved outstanding results and her fame is spreading in Morocco, her work is still in the early stages. There is much to be done for her and for other women in her village.
In addition to some health issues, Fatiha is facing the difficult situation of working outside the home in a patriarchal society where women are supposed to stay at home.
By telling her story, Fatiha appeals to civic society and the Moroccan government to aid girls in poor areas to follow their dreams and have a brighter future.