Thursday, July 22, 2010

Brides of the Arab World: Morocco and North Africa

Arabesque Festival: Brides of the Arab World- Morocco and North Africa

All of these images and the text were showcased at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC from February 23-March 15, 2009.
I took the pictures and typed out the text in the exhibit.


Fez or Tetouan Wedding Caftan

Featuring hand-woven raw silk in two shades of gold, this opulent caftan was made in either Fez or Tetouan around 1920. The silk embroidery, notable for its unusually fine execution, is typical of Tetouan, the only area in Morocco where caftans were crafted by women. For weddings, these garments were worn with a simple white under dress, a belt, a headdress and lavish jewelry. Ornate caftans such as this one were donned by both Jews and Muslims on special occasions, but only Muslims wore them for weddings; the Jews of Tetouan wore an outfit called a keswah kbirah (the big outfit), which consisted of a skirt, west and jacket.

ntae Caftan

In the 19th century, caftans were embroidered only on the tip and were buttoned to the waist; early 20th century models such as this one have richer embellishments and buttons that extend to the hem. The embroidery on this red-velvet garment is emblematic of Fez, where artisans often used 22-carat gold thread (antae is a type of gold thread embroidery). The motifs augured well for the newlyweds: birds were thought to bring good luck, and flowers symbolized joy and happiness. Such elaborate caftans took a very long time to make and were accessible only to wealthy brides, who would wear them for other special occasions after the wedding.

North Africa

Silver-embroidered Wedding Costume

This early 20th century bridal costume was likely worn in the coastal areas of what are now Algeria and Tunisia. It consists of several layers and pieces: a diaphanous white shirt and voluminous Ottoman-style pantaloons under a silver embroidered and sequined top, with a large silk belt tied at the waist. The headdress is a small sequined cap covered by a large silver silk scarf that envelopes the entire outfit. The bride would wear this ensemble while seated on large cushions on a platform; relatives and guests would approach to embrace her and offer gifts of jewelry or money. It was one of a number of outfits designed for celebrations that continued for several days.

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