A Moroccan Woodworking Artisan Shapes His Trade

4 12 2013

Wandering through the old Fez Medina, where vendors of various goods peddle their wares, an older woodworker stands apart from the rest. In the middle of the hustle and bustle (emphasis on hustle), I notice him, an old man bent over his crafts. Beautiful wood pieces that he has carved by hand are stacked up and spread out in front of his stall. Surrounded by an incredible array of colorful crafts—leather goods, glassware, mosaic dishware, beautifully woven rugs, and tapestries—accented with pink, green, purple, and yellow, this man’s goods are all varying shades of brown. It was this contrast that first lured me in to take a better look.

IMG_0130

As I walk closer, I see inside of his roughly 50 square-foot stall, shelves displaying more of his work and pricing signs—ten Euros for this, five Euros for that. Virtually unheard of, set prices are a true rarity in the Fez Medina, the land where haggling reigns. He is sitting on a foot stool a few inches off the ground. He is hunched over and using his bare feet to operate a simple machine that is carving a piece of wood in his hands.

Wandering through the old Fez Medina, where vendors of various goods peddle their wares, an older woodworker stands apart from the rest. In the middle of the hustle and bustle (emphasis on hustle), I notice him, an old man bent over his crafts. Beautiful wood pieces that he has carved by hand are stacked up and spread out in front of his stall. Surrounded by an incredible array of colorful crafts—leather goods, glassware, mosaic dishware, beautifully woven rugs, and tapestries—accented with pink, green, purple, and yellow, this man’s goods are all varying shades of brown. It was this contrast that first lured me in to take a better look.

As I walk closer, I see inside of his roughly 50 square-foot stall, shelves displaying more of his work and pricing signs—ten Euros for this, five Euros for that. Virtually unheard of, set prices are a true rarity in the Fez Medina, the land where haggling reigns. He is sitting on a foot stool a few inches off the ground. He is hunched over and using his bare feet to operate a simple machine that is carving a piece of wood in his hands.

Artisan-1

Mohammed has six grown children who all have children of their own. Not a single one of his children has shown an interest in woodcarving, least of all as a vocation. They have pursued more lucrative careers like academia or accounting (a typical artisan in the Fez Medina earns anywhere from US$730 to US$1,400 annually). Most of his children no longer live in Morocco, having emigrated to France years ago. “Besides,” Mohammed shrugs, “most of this can be done with machines nowadays.”  He displays a quiet stoicism when he talks about this dying art that he has dedicated the past 60 years of his life to—but I wonder if it doesn’t break his heart a little that his family’s woodworking legacy will end with him.

Increasingly, Moroccan youth are choosing to forego traditional vocational arts in favor of more financially rewarding work. This trend triggered the Moroccan government to establish a couple of artisanal schools to preserve the heritage of these crafts. One of them, L’Institut des arts traditionnels de Fes, boasts 500 male and female students ranging from 16 to 30 years of age learning 40 some-odd arts. In addition to handiwork, it also offers introductory business education as well as micro-financing. The goal of the school is to preserve the “millennia-old tradition while adapting to a modern economy.” While the school has been successful enough to warrant new programs in other major artisanal hubs like Marrakech, few students, if any, have the desire to take their developed skill sets into the medina. It’s hard to imagine the medina without these artisans because the Fez Medina has been this way for so long, but the future of the medieval walled cities with respect to the artisans within is unknown.


20130914-Medina10-WoodWorkerWheel_Cropped1

Mohammed gives the impression that he’s more interested in showing his handiwork and explaining his craft than he is in talking about himself or even selling his wares. He picks up a miniature spinning wheel and holds it. He’s really proud of this particular piece. In his stall, he has  articles with pictures featuring himself with this creation. He gestures at my camera and poses. I obligingly take a picture. “How much?” I ask out of curiosity, pointing to his most prized piece of work. He smiles. “This one is not for sale,” he says. “This piece is just for me.”

Jeni Wang

http://newglobalcitizen.com/mbas-without-borders/a-moroccan-woodworking-artisan-shapes-his-trade

Advertisements

Actions

Information

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: