DARA Artisans recently traveled on a sourcing trip to Tunisia, a delightful gem of a country on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. As a lover of textiles, I was instantly taken with the exotic charm of vintage Berber weavings from the southern deserts.
They display a marriage of technique and character that establish them as one of the world’s unique textile traditions. Dazzling geometric patterns are complemented by the spontaneity of tie-dye; a limited palate of all-natural dyes such as indigo, henna and madder root create a harmony of color between pieces.
Comparatively little is known about these traditional Tunisian textiles, as they were created and used by Berber peoples who lived in tribal isolation in the desert and left few written records. Most of our selections are head or shoulder coverings for women, which were layered on top of each other and vary greatly in size and design. It has been recorded that younger women traditionally wore red, while the darker indigo colors were reserved for older women.
I was fascinated to learn how each piece is woven in wool and cotton and then dyed afterwards. While the wool absorbs the dye, usually red or blue, the cotton threads resist the dye and remain white. Sometimes indigo and red dyes are even combined to produce black and maroon shades.
What really struck me was the personality they exhibit: they’re imperfect, asymmetrical, unpredictable. Utterly unique in the world, even among each other. As is sadly the case with many of the world’s great artisan techniques, there are few if any who still produce work of such quality and feeling. We are thrilled to launch our collection of vintage Tunisian textiles and to help expose their inimitable beauty to the rest of the world.