Once there was a Berber Bag - How it all began...
Posted on 11 August 2017
"Once there was a Berber Bag. She belonged to a proud Berber who took her everywhere he went. It had been specially handmade by his friend for him - the master bag maker. She had a special pattern, hand-embroidered, with a floral design, full of tradition, full of stories and secrets. He would wear it under his Djellaba and carry his secrets and his needs. She was his daily companion for many years, even decades. He took her on his long rides through the desert under the burning sun..."
Love at First Sight: My First Vintage Berber Bag
This was the beginning of the story that I was told by the merchant who sold me my first Berber Bag. To be precise, my very first Berber Bag was a gift - and love at first sight. Character meets artistic craft and creativity. Unique and original, each bag has an own character and story. And I started collecting them...
The German Woman Looking for Vintage Berber Bags
And so it began - I wanted to learn everything about these amazing, traditional bags, about their heritage and secrets. I started to walk through the Medina of Marrakesh and every time I saw a bag I started talking to the guy. So I learned about the meaning of the straps and that they showed the status of the holder of the bag. About the embroidery and pattern and the different regions with different meanings.
I spent many afternoons in backyards and cellars of old Moroccans with long beards, few teeth and big smiles drinking incredibly sweet mint tea being told story after story and being sold bag after bag. Soon I was recognised in the Medina of Marrakech as "the German woman looking for vintage bags". I have some amazing old pieces and still today, when I wear them in the Medina, some old man comes up to me, telling me that he knew the maker, who died twenty years ago and with him the pattern… Or sometimes they even want to buy it back - and we sit down and drink tea and they admire their own traditional work that slowly is about to die.
The ABURY Idea
After a couple of months when I had already gathered a nice collection of about 100 Berber Bags, it knocked on the door one afternoon. It was a man from a village in the mountains with a big plastic bag, completely filled with Berber Bags. He had heard that I would buy them so he collected some and offered them. I was thrilled and while around half of them were really old, the others were really unique. But clever as he was he would only sell them all or nothing - and so I took them all.
From that day on the so called "telephone arabe“ continued to work and so there was not a single day without someone knocking at our door to sell Berber Bags for the next two months. I could not leave to the Medina anymore without men approaching me to show me one or the other Berber Bag. My collection was growing to over 500 bags - and finally I took some pieces to Germany. When a friend first asked if she could have one... that was when the idea for ABURY was born and that is why we are selling them today.
© All photos via ABURY
Author: Andrea Bury