by Susan Schaefer Davis
Photos by Joe Coca
Paperback | 168 Pages
Gold Winner for the 31st Annual Independent Book Publishers Association Benjamin Franklin Award.
Morocco is a wildly diverse land, a confluence of cultures, and home to myriad ancient craft traditions still thriving today. Women spin wool and weave rugs, they hand-knot silk buttons, embroider intricate designs passed down through generations, and sew stunning native costumes.
Women Artisans of Morocco tells the stories of twenty-five women who practice these textile traditions with an inspiring pride and fortitude. In rural Berber villages, in bustling cities, and in a remarkable desert oasis, you will meet extraordinary women who honor their cultural traditions as well as those who carve new roads in the social landscape through political office and entrepreneurship. Each is guided by her fierce determination and hope for economic stability. Joe Coca’s photography brings the women, their work, and the colorful richness of Morocco to life.
Susan Schaefer Davis, Ph.D., has been captivated by Morocco since she was a Peace Corps Volunteer there in the 1960s. Her work and research with traditional women led her to a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan and post-doctoral work at Harvard. Susan has taught or held research positions at Haverford College, Rutgers University, the University of Pennsylvania, the College of New Jersey, and Al Akhawayn University in Morocco. She has published widely on gender in Morocco including two books, Patience and Power: Women’s Lives in a Moroccan Village and Adolescence in a Moroccan Town. In addition to consulting with several NGOs, Susan currently leads cultural and textile tours through Morocco.
Joe Coca grew up in the Sangre de Christo Mountains of southern Colorado. After graduating from Colorado State University, he studied photography at Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. For the past thirty-five years he has maintained a studio in Fort Collins, Colorado, but his work has taken him to cities and rural areas of five continents. He has photographed people from all walks of life, industrial products and installations, architecture, food, and especially handcrafted textiles and other artisan goods.
Praise for Women Artisans of Morocco
Books about Muslim women’s lives are normally drab and pessimistic. Women Artisans of Morocco is not one of those books. Susan Schaefer Davis’s portrayals of more than twenty Moroccan women artisans celebrate their femininity, creativity, passion for life and aesthetics, as well as explore the diversity of women’s experiences. The book discusses the kinds of hardships the women have endured in their lives as a result of poverty, patriarchy, and authoritarianism but without essentializing their struggles, without making them Islam-specific. Women Artisans of Morocco is a beautifully written, colorfully illustrated, and meticulously researched book by one of the foremost experts on contemporary women’s issues in Morocco.
Katja Zvan Elliott, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco
First, the textiles: sumptuous rugs, exquisite embroideries, intricate and mysterious buttons, and custom-tailored gowns that defy every image of dress for Muslim women that most of us have ever seen. Then there are the women themselves—feisty, independent, hardworking, elderly and young, married and single, rural and urban, homebound or out running for political office. The most important contribution of Women Artisans of Morocco is its stereotype-busting presentation of Muslim women that the non-Muslim world so needs right now. A lifetime of Arabic-speaking relationships with women and men of all ages in various countries has given Susan Schaefer Davis the basis for sharing their stories as well as their world perspectives. Lucky us to be able to listen in on the conversation. And as always, photographer Joe Coca has brought us a richness we could otherwise have only by going to Morocco. If you can’t make it,
or want to be tempted into going, vor the pages herein.
Deborah Chandler, author of Traditional Weavers of Guatemala, Their Stories, Their Lives and Learning to Weave
Joe Coca’s sumptuous photographs of a breathtaking country and stunning weavings complement Susan Schaefer Davis’s eye-opening study of the remarkable rural women who produce these rugs in an exquisite artisanal tradition in Morocco. Her portraits of these women are based on unmatched knowledge and intimate appreciation of their lives and craft. A unique achievement, Women Artisans of Morocco is at once richly ethnographic, deeply informative, and aesthetically vibrant; it will be of lasting historic value.
Lila Abu-Lughod, Joseph L. Buttenweiser Professor of Social Science, Columbia University, and author of Veiled Sentiments and Do Muslim Women Need Saving?