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Artisanetshop is a brand that resume the history of one of the biggest family in Marrakech in Carpentry

In Morocco and Marrakech, the Carpenter is the person who is able to handle wood in a traditional way Here is a recitation of a slightly different way of life

Family GHOUAT is considered to be a living example of a type of “masters craftsman” (mâallems) that has gradually been disappearing in Morocco. Ahmed Born in 1951, he narrates his life experience with a nostalgic tone. Having lived through the dramatic changes that have occurred and are still occurring in the craft of Carpentry, as has happened with other traditional crafts in Morocco, he is now putting himself at a sufficient distance from his craft to speak about it from the point of view of a disappointed philosopher. It all started when he became an apprentice, along with some of his cousins, at his father and uncle’s workshop, where the skill of carpentry had been kept in the family and passed down from one generation to another. The largest building site, in which his father had revealed his skills, was the Dar El Bacha El Glaoui palace (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dar_el_Bacha), belonging to the Pasha (chief) of Marrakech during the French Protectorate. It was a genuine masterpiece and an object of pride for the whole family. The performance of his grandfather, along with a group of other master craftsmen left a mark of rare beauty on the carved and painted ceilings, as well as the giant portals sculptured into a fine ornament imitating lace. Ahmed Ghouat had to choose between education and his attraction to Carpentry. It was not long before he decided on carpentry. His father encouraged him by giving him three options: 1- to go with him to the building sites, 2- to remain in the workshop, or 3- to depend on his own resources. He decided to follow his father from one construction site to another. Thus, Ahmed Ghouat accompanied his father when he went to work at the mausoleum of Mohamed the Fifth in Rabat (https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mausol%C3%A9e_Mohammed-V), which had been under construction since 1964. Later, they both worked in several royal palaces during the reign of King Hassan the Second. Times were changing, and Carpentry was not what it had been previously. Until the Colonial period, the master craftsman was the one who received the payment from the commissioning person and had then to employ and pay craftsmen and apprentices. He was provided with accommodation and food during the entire work period. Work was mainly commissioned by the elite: ministers, rulers, leaders, and state employees. As for the craft itself,

it was mostly applied to the parts of the buildings that were built out of wood or adorned with wood. This included furniture as well as sculptures, carving and plating. Thus, doors, ceilings, windows, chimneys, bookcases, and different types of furniture were created through dexterous skills and techniques, mastered over time. Afterward, public advertising came into being. The master craftsman was given an advance payment, which he passed on to the craftsmen who worked on the building sites. Another new development was that work started to be done in the workshop instead of on the building sites. Craftsmen’s wages were paid according to the week they had just worked, with Fridays off for prayer. Craftsmen also had the right to have a seven-day holiday for Eid al Fitr , which followed the end of the month of fasting (Ramadan), and a ten-day holiday for Eid El Adha . This shows that the holidays corresponded to either prayer or religious feasts. Those days were particularly useful for family reunions, visiting relatives and friends, purification and rest, as well as socializing, eating together and generally having fun. In order to explain the changes that professional relationships have undergone in this craft, Ahmed Ghouat tells the following story: “A master-craftsman invited other craftsmen who were employed by him to meet four days after Eid El Adha . He told them that he only wanted to meet them so they could have a good time together. He took them to a lively part of the city where they spent the rest of their wages. Afterwards, he asked them to return to their homes. They refused, begging him to let them start work again, for they had spent all their money.” Friday was known as the day of “outings” (nzaha); which was a tradition that had its rules and practices established by craftsmen. “Outing” literally means a picnic outdoors, to which people took delicious food and drinks. It was characterised by the preparation of a special Marrakechi dish, called tangia (https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tangia); veal or mutton cooked slowly in a pot at the fireplace of the public hammam. This dish, which only men prepared, was carried on Friday afternoons to the picnic place for a group of friends to eat. Not only did they enjoy the food but they also had discussions, told jokes, and sang melodies entoned by a craftsman who doubled as virtuous lute player. Suitable places for such festive outings were always available. They included Agdal Park, Al Menara Gardens, and Arset Moulay Abdeslam Park. As well as Fridays, these pleasant outings also took place on days of religious celebrations.

The transformations that occurred within this craft were not limited to work methods and places, not even with regard to the securing of orders; they also extended to learning. In the past, a father entrusted his six or seven-year old son to a master craftsman, who then taught the craft to the boy and who was often related by blood. Initially, the apprentice’s tasks were confined to handing the tools to the master craftsman and observing him at work. This observational period was absolutely essential for the learning process as it was extremely practical. The master craftsman’s movements, positions and words formed the basic source of learning for the apprentice (matâallem). Afterwards, he would start performing small tasks assigned to him by the master craftsman. The latter made sure that the apprentice learned to perform his work, through correcting his mistakes, instructing him in the techniques and movements required, and even scolding him when necessary. Ahmed Ghouat tells a story about a boy whose father entrusted him to his grandfather, the master craftsman Allal Ghouat, to ride a used mule transporting raw materials or manufactured pieces. But he so quickly learned the woodworking craft from his master and excelled as an apprentice that he ended up as a master craftsman himself, manufacturing a marvelous, precisely sculptured frieze that still decorates the façade of the entrance to the Hammam Dheb in the Zaouit Lahdar quarter of the medina of Marrakech. One of the particularities of the traditional relationship of master and apprentice lies in the fact that the apprentice could leave his master’s workshop, as the latter had no right to prevent him, but was obliged to return to his master whenever he was asked to do so. The pattern of such transformations has accelerated since the 1970’s, when carpenters started to increase their production in order to meet the demand of the Bazaar owners who traded in old antiques and traditional handicraft. In this period, pieces of furniture (beds, closets, tables, seats, etc.) became indispensable in the Moroccan reception rooms of the new generation, and formed an integral part of newly wed couples’ possessions when they started living together, as well as for hotel owners and both public and private institutions. As the demand for such products increased, orders were carried out by small businesses, some of which grew larger and larger to the extent of exporting their merchandise abroad. These businesses clearly interfered with the traditional domain of the craftsmen who, deprived of capital, had difficulty in keeping up with the new competitors. The craftsmen, overwhelmed and resigned, were left with little choice but to either work for the new businesses or to keep to their quarters, which were growing smaller every day. Ahmed Ghouat belonged to those who were compelled to choose self-employment. He nostalgically summarizes the transformation, which for him is synonymous with great chaos, by stating the following: “Although production has increased, skillfulness has declined. Moreover, professional ethics have disappeared as well as the traditional institutions, which guaranteed them. The transfer of skills no longer exists; neither do holidays nor nzaha; and the mâallem, without apprentices, has become a master to himself”. In the same way, work is no longer personalized: the times are gone when the client had a kind of moral agreement with the master craftsman. Orders are now performed through a contractor managing anonymous craftsmen who hardly ever have contact with the clients. The level of competition has increased through industrialized products and furniture that have flooded the market; while families actually consider the impersonal standard pieces to be modern and affordable. The same anonymous craftsmen are also working for Bazaar owners and old antiques salesmen who excel in the art of selling pieces that look old, but which have actually been built from new materials. Therefore, they have become skillful masters in counterfeiting, in order to meet an obsessive demand for “authentic” handicraft, “antique” objects “, hand-made pieces, and ancient artifacts. Today, Ahmed Ghouat and his sons are the last representative of a tradition in carpentry inherited from his forefathers; a tradition with a respect for work done well. they find themself in the core of a transitional period full of disturbances where they have lost their compass and have difficulties in gaining a foothold in a profession under continuous transformation at all levels: institutional, technical, social, ethical, spatial, and temporal. Two of his sons left university to work with him, but soon felt disappointed when faced with the difficulties of maintaining a family tradition. Today, they are attempting to find other paths in order to adapt themselves to the new conditions of the profession.

From that, they create Artisanetshop that Brand not only a relation between artisan and worldwide but a big bridge between the creativity of generations in Moroccan handicraft.