Association Afous Gafous weaves uniquely beautiful rugs. Their rugs are always handmade, and almost always dyed with natural dyes. The group is one of the most active groups on Anou, working hard to try and develop new designs and ideas to evolve their craft.
One of the Afous Gafous’ rising stars in design, Zahra Amzil, was watching a traditional Amazigh film where the protagonist tries to set up a cooperative and visits many shops in their pursuit.
Inspired by all the rugs shown, Zahra came up with an idea : mixing in designs from the film with inspiration of her own and a new technique (Zanafi style) she learned from a recent custom order. She immediately began to sketch the idea out on paper:
She took the initial design and worked the Anou’s artisan mentors to figure out sizing and colors.
She decided on using leftover yarns first to try out the idea. She ended up going with grey yarn for the design and a naturally dyed brown from onion shell for the base.
With the specifics now figured out, she immediately got to work and made this first prototype at home:
Zahra is already thinking about making a variation of this rug using new colors. Encouraged by her first creative experience, she is already envisioning new designs which we are sure will make for beautiful rugs.
Congrats Zahra on your beautiful new design ! We can’t wait to see more from you.
As we hope most of you know, at the core of our mission is a deep belief in removing all barriers between moroccan artisans and their customers all over the world.
Usually, when we talk about this mission, the first thing that comes to mind is empowering artisans to get rid of predatory middlemen. And for a good reason, since it is indeed the main motivation that go Anou started.
However, a less talked about aspect of our mission is encouraging artisans tell their stories directly, without filters or moderation.
Why is this important ? Couldn’t we just have shared their stories in our own words ?
Allowing artisans to tell their stories in their own words matters for a couple of reasons. First and most obviously, who better to tell the story than the people who live it every day ?
Second and most importantly, it ties back to our long term goal of empowering artisans to become independent business owners. Storytelling is such an important part of how businesses are run in our time (and we could argue, in all times). So we want Anou artisans to develop the skills to tell their own stories.
Introducing “Meet the Cooperative”
For all the reasons above, we are very excited to introduce the first post of a new series featuring Anou artisans.
In this series, our Marketing mentor at Anou will regularly interview some of our favorite cooperatives members. He will ask them about how they got started, the challenges they faced and what their hopes for the future were. For many of them, this is the first time anyone had asked about their life stories. The result is a series of raw and honest video interviews that we will share with you on Instagram first and then on the blog.
Youssef : Hello Aicha, I’m happy to have you with us. Could you please introduce yourself ?
Aicha : Sure. I’m Aicha Bertal, born in 1987, married and mother of three. I’m the president of cooperative Asnli in Immouzer Marmoucha.
Youssef : Could you tell us a bit about how you got started ?
Aicha : When we arrived in Immouzer, we used to make rugs with a group of women, usually 3 or 4 women from neighbours and family. When we would finish our rugs, there were these people (middlemen) who would buy the rugs from us. So whenever we finished a rug, we would take it to the side of the rug for the middlemen to see it. They then would buy the rugs from us at a very low price.
We kept working this way until one day we thought :
Why not unite, start a cooperative, and find a way to market our products ?
And this is what we did. During the early days of the cooperative, we continued working the old way (with middlemen), making rugs and selling them at a very low price.
About 2 years ago, we came across Anou. Through it, we found out that our products were quite popular, the prices higher than we thought and soon our cooperative became well known. We started to sell, not only in Morocco, but abroad now !
This motivated us to make great efforts to improve our rugs, incorporate new designs into them and go forward with our craft.
Youssef : A true success story ! And how was your experience working with the Anou team ?
Aicha : We learned a lot. Before, we didn’t use to pay that much attention to the colors or the wool we used. Now, for each product we’re about to make, we make sure the colors go well together, and that the wool is of good quality. We also make sure that the rug won’t unravel later. Overall, we pay excellent attention to end up with a good quality rug.
A problem we used to face is getting custom orders for a specific design. It was hard to us to translate that pattern on the rug. The calculations were difficult to get right. But now, thanks to Meriem’s plan (Anou’s production manager), we know how the rug is advancing. Now, we have almost 100% certainty about how the final rug is going to look like, and that the pattern will be correct. Using a plan made things so much easier.
Youssef : This all sounds wonderful. Finally, what are your goals for the future ?
Aicha : My goal, and that of all cooperative members, is to expand our cooperative and introduce it to as many people as possible. Most importantly, we want to be recognized for our hard work and we want this hard work to pay off for us. We want the cooperative to thrive !
Youssef : Thank you so much Aicha.
We hope you enjoyed this little interview with Aicha ! If you’d like to know more about Asnli and view some of their beautiful designs, visit their page on Anou.