My Morocco - Homestay
“I come from a world where everything around me moves at full speed.
There’s no time to slow down, or at least we’ve been conditioned to think there isn’t. We wake up early and go to bed late, filling our day with as much as we can. The days roll by and we find ourselves stuck in the motion of ticking things off our never ending to do list.”
Contributing Designer Sarah takes us inside a homestay with Artisans in a remote village in Morocco.
“Life’s different in Morocco, especially in the villages. People move with the wind and no faster. Its as though time doesn’t exist; which took the TBE girls a bit of getting used to. We spent four days in a remote village in the Atlas Mountains to visit a Fair Trade female weaving collective and stay with some of the local families. During our homestays we were forced to slow down and take the time to truly enjoy the moment, and for that I couldn’t be more grateful. Like photographs in my mind I remember each meal – and the dancing that followed, conversations of laughter – the language with no words, and beautiful moments of interaction – learning from one another.
It began from the moment we stepped into the weaving collective. In that moment, despite the chaos in the background, everything around me seemed to stop. I knew places like this existed, I’d researched them, followed them and hoped that one day I would visit them, and here I was. It was a simple room with pale yellow walls, a plastic table with a few chairs around it and a group of weaving looms made of wood and second-hand steel set up, some being used, others tucked away and gathering a thin layer of dust. Tears began welling up in my eyes and my heart was pounding nervously. I didn’t expect it, but emotions flooded my body, overwhelmed I suppose. It’s always been the process that has drawn me to fashion and textiles, knowing how something was made and who made it. As a little girl whenever I wanted to buy something my Mum would tell me “but you could make that” and so I developed a habit of looking inside garments before I bought them. I would look at how it was made and how much work had gone into it and I would decide whether it was worth buying based on my own ability to make it myself. Entering the collective I knew straight away, this was a part of the process that I could never have imagined doing on my own.
The detailed and refined art of weaving is a process that requires so much time and so much skill and yet is overlooked and undervalued by so many, myself included.
Even when we do ask the question “Who made my clothes?” we barely ever thinks as far as, “Who wove the material that was then made into my clothes?”. I walked the edges of the room, pretending to look at the equipment as I blinked back my glassed eyes and gathered the million and one thoughts that had just exploded in my mind. How blessed I was to be standing here, seeing and experiencing this first hand but why had I needed to travel half way across the world to a remote village in the middle of Morocco to find a Fair Trade organisation? Why was the choice of Fair Trade or not even still an option? I felt a weight fall on my shoulders and for a moment I thought, “this is too much for me”. But it wasn’t just me, in fact I had five other amazing TBE women standing right beside me wanting the same things and already my shoulders felt lighter.
I had no idea what the next four days would hold for me, but from that moment, I knew whatever it was, it would be lifechanging. It was a cultural experience I could have never even dreamed of. The hospitality was beyond anything I’ve ever experienced, a constant supply of food and drink seemed to appear before my eyes so much so that I actually started to forget what it felt like to be hungry. Leaving the house after a slow breakfast of bread, olives, egg and apple cake each morning we would start making our way through the streets and across the fields with our homestay mum, Rappa. En route to the weaving collective where we would meet the other women and the rest of the TBE girls, a 20-minute walk would easily become a 2-hour journey as we passed friends and family each of whom would invite us into their homes for tea, sweets and sometimes warm milk, fresh from the family cow.
Each day wound by with the women weaving together, chatting and laughing, while the TBE girls captured the raw essence of the collective on film, in photograph and through writing (with plenty of tea breaks in between). Back at the home the nights were late, visitors constantly streaming through to eat dinner with us, dance with us or simply to wave and smile at us. Most nights came to an end with me falling asleep on the shoulder of Rappa, music still playing in the background and my cheeks sore from smiling so much. It felt like I had lived there a lifetime. In a foreign country, with limited ways to communicate, it felt safe. I felt at home.
The women of the collective were happy. They did not consider weaving to be a job but as an opportunity to empower themselves, their families and their community. They did not weave because they had to, the did it because they wanted too, because it is a part of their culture as it always has been and will continue to be.
The collective gave me hope for the future of Fair Trade, it opened my eyes to the real possibilities of sustainable and ethical consumption and the role that I have to play in it. As we wound through the cobbled streets and back onto the main road all I could think was that my heart and my belly were as full as they had ever been.