An example of a brave Amazigh woman


Fatima Mellal was Born in Tamlalt, a Berber little village in Ayt Sedrat Valley (15 klm to Bumal and Dades countryside), Ouarzazat, South-East of Morocco. Her family’s house perched onto the Rocky Mountains. She stems from a modest background where she had to work hard, almost during the whole seasons, in agricultural fields; bringing up herds of sheep and cows. Besides these duties, most women in most Amazigh tribes do practice carpets weaving in the traditional common style. This is the solely means to survive.
Since the early age, the little young girl got to work with her mother and did very well in daily home duties. She had never been to school like most of Amazigh girls; this is basically due to the marginalization system practiced on Amazigh speaking regions. During that time, Fatima Mellal’s mother had taught her how to weave woolen blankets and carpets by pushing her to help her in all the tough steps of this hard work, which required both physical and mental energy and skills. Having been deprived of school, she had been motivated to be an excellent carpets weaver. Day after day she found that she was able to improve her artistic abilities through weaving. Indeed, Fatima started to join and decorate all her works, with Amazigh symbols and Tifinagh characters, an act that arose in her a will to improve both colors and styles of the carpets.

Talking about Fatima Mellal’s artistic experience is an attempt to analyze the background and the social, cultural, natural environment in which she was born and brought up. As it is mentioned already above, the natural views that Fatima used to see around since her early childhood were but small houses on mountains and a river passing by crossing small green fields. In front of her home balcony and windows, stood huge red strange rocks known there (in her village) as “monkey s paths” since they showed exactly the same as the latter.

Socially and culturally speaking, Fatima was lucky to grow up within such a very artistic family. She got an extrovert modern Amazigh education, in which parents played a great part in the great reputation that the artistic Mellals had got. They did encourage the special skills that their children celebrated. Therefore, defying such a society contaminated with strange cultures offending creation and art either of boys or girls, Mohamed Mellal, the eldest revolutionary son, with his large important experience in art, music and cartoons, did enable the whole family, including Fatima, to acquire and get in touch with the world of art, tools and means. With his experience in art, he noted that his sister, who practiced some features of arts in weaving carpets, could be able to do best with painting with pencils and paints. This was the start of a fabulous adventure that led her to the world of great imagination with a special taste totally different from the one she used to enjoy with wool and weaving.

She would have to wait till 2000, when Margaret Haslan, a friend of her from Switzerland, would help her organize the first gallery of her works in Europe. It was a great experience for her since it was quite an occasion to get in touch with international schools of painting all over the world. It was an important step for her to achieve other ambitious plans to complete the project ahead of her artistic career. Indeed, she had been invited to expose her special works in many countries such as Nederland, Spain, Bahrain and in other different cities in Morocco (During associations or cultural centers activities or encounters): Ouarzazat, Zagora, Casablanca and Rabat. Besides home duties and art actvities, Fatima Mellal would invite kids and young men/women to her workshop as an initiation to let them acquire art and fill them with inspiration to translate their ideas and imagination on script. As a member of the Tamlalt association of development, she is very active in activating social actions in favor of little kids in need of school materials and clothes.

From the first sight of her works full with many features, subjects, messages, you would admire her artistry use of colors. She has a natural skill in translating her ideas, philosophy, as well as the Amazigh woman s sufferings, dreams and hopes through her paintings. She is able then to speak regardless of her marginalized Amazigh world, in a natural, innocent and unaffected style considered to be typical of naive art: A woman climbing high mountains with a stick holding heavy things on her back, red sleepy rocks, houses, Amazigh Tifinagh perched on trees, children s skeleton full of bones, hope, are ideas and subjects projected in her best works. Through her association with several artists and her solely special naive style, she became very famous abroad, while her homeland s media never gave her a chance to shed some light on her works and philosophy. Racist attitudes, lack of coverage of Amazigh activities and events are common and normal practices in Morocco. But even if the emotions and ideas that are painted in Fatima s works are typically Amazigh, still Art is a universal language that can be accessible to all souls and not contaminated with racism and marginalization of cultures.

To sum up, Fatima Mellal with her abilities to strike a balance between weaving, home and green fields activities, social actions and artistic works mean too much to the Amazigh “Berber” woman and civilization in general. Women then could be productive in all fields and play parts in making history.

*Amazigh means Berber.

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Written By Omar Zanifi
Edited by Hicham Boughaba

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