05 August 2010

Jellaba Bzouia

Once in a while on this blog, I want to try to plug some of my friends’ projects in Morocco. One of my good friends is a small enterprise volunteer who works with weavers. But not just any weavers… Rebecca works with the women weavers of a very famous product in Morocco, the Jellaba Bzouia.

Up in the Northwest corner of Morocco’s Azilal Province, Bzou (bzz-ooo) is a semi-arid collection of hamlets (douwars) just off the main road between the major cities of Beni-Mellal and Marrakesh. The commune of Bzou is composed of various Tashelheit, Tamazight and Arabic speaking douwars dotting the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. The name Bzou is derived from the Berber root word "lbz"(البز) which refers to a process of spinning silk thread.

Jellaba Bzouia (or Kharka Bzouia) is a garment created from the fine woven fabric the women of these douwars make. The sheer fabric is traditionally made from handspun wool with silk stripe accents. Moroccans typically use the fabric for a tailor-made jellaba (long hooded robe) and sometimes for a silham (formal cape). The King of Morocco, high-ranking Moroccan officials, brides, and grooms custom-order Jellaba Bzouia for special occasions. Recently, some weavers have begun experimenting with natural dyes and with making finished products such as scarves/shawls. One piece of 1.5-2 m x 3 m fabric sells for $100-$250. Scarves and shawls sell for $32-$50.

Click below to see Rebecca’s slideshow illustrating the making of the Bzou fabric!

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