REPORTAGE

Keltoum

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Sitting on her old boucharouite, she puts her delicate fingers on everything that’s surrounding her. Since her eyes can’t illuminate her world anymore, she uses her hands to see and feel it. Keltoum is ageless. They say she’s over a hundred years old. Perhaps, who knows? She, however, never seems to have left childhood. A mischievous smile and teasing eyes punctuate all of her sentences. The old blind lady that smiles to the clouds has lost none of her mental sharpness. She remembers the time when her father, a public letter-writer, received all the villagers that needed his services. She vividly recalls those carefree days when she would play with the children of the French that lived in the village. She even spent some time in school. Keltoum is not like her peasant neighbours, without any education. Her mother was from Marrakech, a big city. It was her marriage to a local noteworthy person, her father, that brought her to the mountains. “No, it wasn’t my mother who taught me how to make these rag-carpets – she says – these menial tasks were left to lesser people. I learnt from the village women”. It was poverty, their common link, that taught her how to weave. Every winter, when the work that needed to be done in the fields would diminish, she would reuse the clothes that had been discarded. Weaving, she would feel the same emotions, the same energy that would fill her up when she was drawing in the classroom. She would weave according to the rhythm of the strips of cloth and her moods. For years she knotted red and green rags, her favourite colours, creating shapeless shapes and discontinuous lines. Anyway, why talk about this to strangers today, when the last carpet she made has the same age as her grandson now going to secondary school? For her this is no longer relevant: “the time of the boucharouites has long past, just as my life” she says. The women of the village have long since moved on to other things, the current trend is for fluorescent colours. Keltoum has no sympathy for this new generation, which has known no hardship: “all they know how to do is wash clothes and watch TV. In my time things were a lot harder” and time spent weaving a lot more precious. Now with all these new models that sell so well on the local market, her boucharouites are just a reminder of a time gone past, the time when her wonderstruck little eyes would still reveal to her the depth of colours surrounding her.