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Beni Ourain carpet 

November 2018

This fine example of a 20th century Berber carpet is currently on display at the Afridi Gallery as part of Moroccan Minimalism: Textile Art from North Africa. 


The carpet in some ways recalls the spare subtlety of the Tuareg rug (April’s Object of the Month), also North African, in which strips of leather have been woven into reed to form a network of large lattice structures. Smaller and softer, this carpet is in fact Berber, possibly an example of the Beni Ourain tribe, renowned for their clean, monochromatic lines. The look still affects us because it has a true timelessness, and having been developed over millennia it is admired more than ever in the modern age.


A detailed image of the carpet closes in on its softly delineated strips of zig zag pattern. Each section arranges the lines in a new configuration, revealing the variety of ways in which even the most minimal of designs can be inventively reapplied. Seen from afar, the tilted edges of the small rug cast a wobbly, uneven outline, which creates an elliptic, and almost organic, effect. Capturing a perfectly rectangular image, the camera lens exposes this slight asymmetry in the textile, as its markings gently bend to the lower right. Such imperfections are charming, not merely because they hint at hand weaving techniques, but also because with each lopsided shape or swaying line the carpet becomes a more nuanced landscape for our eye to roam.

Viewed as a whole, the lines veer, coincide and divide until their simple formations grow into lightly monolithic constellations. The effect, however, is never too severe, with the looped knot giving the delicate imprints a soft, crumbly texture. Still, the carpet bears a clearly defined abstract pattern that is visibly tribal. When compared to the midcentury Minimalism of the Western world, which was in many ways the product of a more streamlined, industrial aesthetic, it evokes a far more serene and understated interpretation of pared back forms. And with every design having its own deeper cultural significance, they feel far from being mass producible.


Beni Ourain carpet

Handwoven wool pile

Mid 20th century

Dimensions: 3.00 x 1.80 m


The Gallery is specifically designed to let objects speak for themselves, creating an intriguing dialogue between different art forms, united by quality of design and mastery of execution.

Afridi 76 Royal Hospital Road London SW3 4HN


For more press information, to receive images or arrange an interview, please contact Anthea Roberts:

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