Until recently, Morocco’s ancestral handcrafted pottery industry was looking bleak. Back in 1990, the M’tioua tribe from Taounate Province could count only 90 potters. By 2019, there were less than half. Tribal women from Morocco’s Rif Mountains, specifically from the Ourtzagh Village, are talented potters. They have artisanal knowledge that must be passed down. The art of traditional clay making has been in danger of completely disappearing. This, however, is changing with 82-year-old master potter Aicha Tabiz of the Sless Tribe.
The shift occurred when she agreed to partner with the Spanish Website Sumano. Together they leveraged Instagram and the internet to market her pottery workshops. Suddenly, young artists like Mirna Banieh are traveling to Ourtzagh Village. They travel from far places like the West Bank of Ramallah, London, and Nairobi.
Tabiz is referred to as Mama Aicha on social media and by her community. Originally, Mama Aicha along with the other local tribes had hoped that the pottery would be stored in its own museum.
The art of crafting pottery is historic, some believe it dates back to the Bronze Age. Each tribe in the region of Taounate has unique pottery skills. Although the local Moroccan government was not interested in funding a museum, Mama Aicha’s instagram presence has promoted the craft worldwide.
“All the spots were filled two days after registration opened. We had a waiting list with applicants from across the globe,” said Sumano’s co-founder Martha Valedon.
Mama Aicha’s newfound success is inspiring women from local tribes. Like many Moroccan women, Mama Aicha devoted her life to child-rearing, cooking, and caring for her family. Despite her age, a new chapter in her career is beginning. Moroccan women are noticing. Houda Oumal for example, a member of the M’tioua tribe expressed wanting to pursue pottery “like her (own) mother”. Oumal said she plans to combine pottery with her knowledge in graphic design.