Read an excerpt from Eve’s latest newsletter, following her tracks across Morocco’s Atlas Mountain foothills to discover ancient Berber weaving techniques.
Morocco, October 2016
by Eve Branson
Well, after an incredible couple of weeks in Sicily with my family to watch them complete their STRIVE challenge across Italy, I found myself flying into Marrakech with Richard late on Friday 30th September, just in time for the Grand Openings of the new Eve Branson Foundation Tansghart Woodwork Centre and Tamgounssi Weaving Centre, that were taking place at 10am on Saturday morning.
Driving up into the High Atlas Mountains after landing, and arriving at the breathtaking Kasbah Tamadot, I immediately felt I was at home – this part of the world has always held a very special place in my heart. I fell in love with it 10 years ago when I founded the Eve Branson Foundation, which has been my work and also my passion ever since.
We have done many worthy things here in the communities we support and I was excited to see our newest endeavours first hand, having seen and heard so much about the progress we have made over the last 10 months since my last visit.
Among the many special guests at the occasion was Patrick Hull, maverick entrepreneur and longtime EBF supporter, who has been single handedly responsible for funding the carpentry centre for boys and that was our first port of call… To see the transformation of our old goathouse in Tansghart to become this incredible facility was a wonderful thing. They have some state of the art equipment and a comprehensive training programme that allows the boys to make and create some very high quality carpentry products and learn skills that will open doors for them should they continue to be as devoted and engaged with the project as they clearly were.These smiling young men took such pride in showing around this band of special guests, among them, the Governor of the region and representatives from the High Atlas Foundation, American Chamber of Commerce as well as the British and US embassies in Morocco, notably the newly appointed British Ambassador to Morocco, Karen Betts, who took a great interest in what we were doing. These guests had travelled far and wide to attend our openings and to see the work we are doing within our Berber communities.
After delicious mint tea, demonstrations from the boys of their new-found skills, and of the brand new laser cutting machine, it was on to Tamgounssi to bear witness to another incredible transformation of a piece of unused scrub land into a beautiful centre for sewing and weaving.
Amina welcomed us at the doors of the weaving centre with pride and after cutting the red ribbon (two ribbons in one day!), we made our way into the facility to find the girls hard at work with their embroidery – they have become so professional and their stitch work so delicate and precise, it is amazing to see the results of their training. Then we made our way to the next room to observe fabric weaving. What extraordinary wooden-framed machines these are, unchanged for hundreds of years – merely setting up the looms can take upwards of a week and the soft woven fabrics that are produced on pedal-driven wheels are such beautiful intricate pieces.
We have also built upright looms for carpet-making. It can take two women or more, working on the same loom, a month or more to produce a large carpet by hand. If only I could pack a few in my luggage to take home!
When you see what a labour of love producing a handwoven cotton throw or traditional Berber rug, you can understand why Morocco has always been the destination for one-off creations of the highest quality and why these items are so sought after. These techniques are carried out as if by pure instinct, a form of artistic expression that dates back centuries.
I cannot thank enough the hard work of all involved in our effort; the girls and boys we support, the guests who came to be a part of this great day, David Bult of Green Sahara Furniture who has facilitated and led the inspirational carpentry programme, Patrick Hull who funded it and made it all possible, Barbara, Zoubair, Brahim and Vincent who work tirelessly for the Eve Branson Foundation and last but not least, to my son Richard, who got me across to Morocco on time and gave his time so graciously and generously to celebrate with us!
I know I was not alone in finding these centres inspirational. Everyone present was impressed by the facilities and progress made, and also by the positive impact initiatives like ours have on the communities as a whole. It left us all with much food for thought and the desire and energetic drive to do even more…. watch this spot!
What a remarkable weekend and what joy I took from this most positive trip to the communities of The Eve Branson Foundation.
Images courtesy of Mohammed Kamal and Charlie Dailey.