They’ve taken an 8 hour train from their home in Sefrou down to Marrakech, carrying a bag so heavy it takes two to inch it along. Amina, fearless and well-traveled, has brought her lovely daughter-in-law, Wafae, who’s never been to the pink city in her 22 years. At 9:00 in the evening, the two travelers, without a sign of weariness, arrive at Jnane Tamsna where I am staying and celebrate our grand reunion over dinner, having such fun that the proprietor, my friend and Ibu Ambassador, Meryanne Loum Martin, comes to join us.
By the next morning at breakfast, we are all huddling over the spoils of the heavy bag - gorgeous Moroccan cashmere with hand-embroidery and stitching so fine I momentarily levitate. Meryanne and I try on each jacket in fresh spring colors and begin designing the next creation, marveling all the while at the impeccable work. Amina and Wafae glow, scratch notes, report on the women with whom they work.
Ibu is the only outlet for these gorgeous pieces made by artisans I visited last year. In a passionate outpouring of French, Amina explains to Meryanne that Ibu has changed the life of 13 families in her community. Sitting there at this breakfast of championship women, I feel enormous gratitude to know them, and responsibility, also, to keep the work flowing, to sell the culturally steeped beauty crafted by their hands and history and imagination.
Amina and Wafae are not just making jackets. They're leading a movement of Moroccan women pursuing work, respect, rights, freedom. They're raising awareness about the plight of unwed mothers who are outcast, forced to put their child in an orphanage or, in some cases, to marry the man who raped them. Amina is leading workshops throughout the rural mountains on Natural Dyeing, as well as teaching women to weave on the ground floor of her home. She sparkles with confidence, determination, and laughter in equal measure.
Before the breakfast is over, my friend’s husband is drawn into the creative energies stirring at our table. Founder of the Global Diversity Foundation, Gary Martin, after a few minutes of engaging with my guests, is now asking Amina to come do natural dyeing workshops for women in areas where his foundation is at work and suggesting there may be funds to make this happen. Perhaps, he offers, one day Ibu will carry the shawls these women could weave and dye with native plants. I’ve known this world-renowned ethnobotanist for 20 years, and now, at this table, our worlds embrace in a magnificant new way.
Wafae has to get back for exams at the University of Fez, where she is majoring in English Literature. Even with finals looming, she spent 16 hours in a train for breakfast. But what happened over eggs was more than a morning ritual. It was the spin of worlds colliding, hands joining, ideas igniting - men and women at their best, championing one another and, always, the women back home whose hope depends on us.
All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker