Handicraft represents a historical legacy for nomadic tribes in the Moroccan south. The new patterns of production, coupled with their concomitant marketing ways, have now come to witness deep transformations as a result of the stability of nomads as well as the changes that have occurred in relation to their consumer behaviour.
Moreover, handicraft in these regions concentrates more particularly on the processing by craftsmen of goat and camel hides, in addition to coloured ivory and local clay, into useful products and art works such as jewels and copper products. Within this framework, the Craft Industry Complex, which was established in Laayoune, contributes in organizing as well as training craftsmen.
As a matter of fact, because it is mandatory that handicraft be preserved for the kind of assets it has at hand; namely, both its supply of useful and decorative products, its potential as a job market as well as the services it offers, the horizons leading to its development depend; nevertheless, on invigorating the sector of tourism at the level of handicraft.
The fact is that the Sahraoui people have created numerous traditional and popular handicrafts, of which the so-called “asarmi” is but one sample. “Asarmi’ is a kind of leather pillow that is finely embroidered with a large array of magnificent decorations. Other products include a great quantity of home utensils such as boxes and small flasks that are used for storing perfume and women’s jewellery. These could be used to safeguard some rare belongings and documents such as manuscripts as well as sales, marriages and property contracts.
The development of this particular sector is tied to the cultural heritage of the nomads, who depend to a large measure upon the breeding of goats and camels, considering the fact that these animals’ hides are used in the manufacturing of other products such as “settees” and “leather soles,” to name but a few examples. Wool, however, is used in the weaving of carpets as well as the tents that the nomads use for the purpose of shelter.
It is a characteristic of nomads to wear blue garments – akin to bedcovers and blankets-, most of which are imported from Mauritania; or finished at times in the region. Besides, other branches, so to say, of craft industry are now in full bloom, particularly in the area of the goldsmith profession; that is, the manufacturing of jewellery, copper utensils and such like.
The sum total of job openings in this area amounts to 960 craftsmen, which represents 2% of the active population in the region, a number that comprises 14 differing production activities. In addition, the construction of a complex for craft industry has allowed for the raising in the level of education and expertise of the young craftsmen. It also helped in supporting as well as encouraging local craftsmanship. In sum, it is within the potential of crafts industry, which feeds on the cultural wealth of the Sahraoui provinces, to experience more growth and dynamism through its link and coordination with the tourism sector.