Your pets, artisans and successful export reforms!

In November of last year we launched The Pet Lobby in response to export restrictions that affect many painters in Morocco, particularly Nourdin, a member of the Anou community. The quick summary is that each painting shipped from Morocco must go through an onerous process which ultimately requires the approval and signature of the Minister of Culture themselves.

Painting by Nourdin Boukhir

So when Nourdine sends one of his hilarious paintings, like this one, it can take 3-6 months before his painting reaches the customer. If you purchased from Nourdine before, you’re likely aware of this problem and managing the collateral of the tedious process was burning out the Anou team. The only positive thing of this whole process was imagining the Minister having to take time out of their important schedule to inspect and sign off on cats licking themselves.

We spent years unsuccessfully trying to change the export rules around these paintings, so we were either going to have to stop selling paintings or do what we do best, which is double down on craft and the tools we have available to bring attention to the problem…all with a dash of humor, in good artisan fashion.

So we called on all of our supporters to commission paintings of their pets ‘bathing themselves’. Our hope was that we’d generate substantial income for Nourdine while overwhelming the Ministry’s export process with your pets bathing themselves. In other words, either the Minister meets with us to solve this problem, or he’s going to have to spend months looking at all our supporters’ pets bathing themselves. 

Artisan Leades team posing with some of the paintings from the campaign.

Well over $3000 in sales later, national press, and five months of follow ups and leveraging all of your pets for all they were worth, artisan leaders Kenza (Association Tithrite), Rachida Ousbigh (Cooperative Tiglmamin), and Rabha Houari (Association Nahda), finally secured a meeting with the Minister of Culture that took place this week.

Moroccan culture minister Mehdi Bensaid receiving a Nourdin painting as a gift handed by Rachida Ousbigh, Anou Artisan Leader.

After the artisan leaders presented Anou, explained the export challenges, and after gifting the Minister his own Nourdine painting, the Minister agreed to make the necessary changes to ensure that Nourdine’s paintings will face no export delays or restrictions. The Minister also confirmed that they were beginning to build a digital portal so that all artists across Morocco can self-report and declare the exports of their paintings so that there will be no delays for any painters in Morocco in the not so distant future.  We couldn’t be more thrilled with this result. 

The artisan team and the minister posing with the Pet Lobby campaign paintings.

We owe the deepest gratitude and patience to all of our supporters who commissioned their paintings. While we didn’t get your paintings to you by the 2021 holiday season (lol sorry, not even close), we eventually did get the change we sought, and we’ll be sending your paintings out in the next  

Ultimately, none of this would’ve been possible without the support of all of our customers. By purchasing through Anou, rather than just another middleman or foreigner. Through Anou, Morocco’s artisan community gains not just better income, but tangible power to change Morocco’s craft economy for the better. The more sales we generate, the more power the artisan community has to create more needed change like we’ve seen today and ensure that the best days of Moroccan craft are always ahead of it. 

And finally, our deepest thanks to Minister Mehdi Bensaid and Advisor Abdellah Eid Nizar for being good sports about our initiative, meeting with artisans, listening to and taking their concerns seriously, and helping us solve this problem for once and all. And of course a big thanks to our pet activists for putting in a good cute fight. Pets and artisans for the win!