Berber Memories

A book review by Sarah Corbett

  • Publisher : Yale University Press (22 Oct. 2020)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 480 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0300253958
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0300253955

When I travelled with my family in the early 2000’s in remote areas of Morocco, I discovered a rich network of adornments. I began to learn that each type of adornment was connected to neighbouring towns, however; the shape, materials and design was distinctly unique to that place and to the people of that place creating an amazing net of connectivity . Every piece gently imparting it’s hidden codes and language to those who chose to listen to and see that coded message.

I often uttered the wish that I might have been there to explore and learn 25 years earlier, as by 2000 much had been lost in time. Berber Memories reveals to me the wonders and the stunning pieces of adornment which were observed and gathered by Anne-Marie and Roland Gillion Crowet, they were indeed the ones who made that journey and lived that adventure 25 years before mine began.

During this strange point in history, a pandemic dictates that travel is not the easy choice it has always been. This beautifully written account of what it means to travel and the absolute privilege of immersing oneself in a stunning country, tugs on my heartstrings profoundly and makes me yearn to be there: on a bumpy road to an unfamiliar destination where the people I meet will teach me about themselves, their environment, history and also about myself.

Anne-Marie’s’ descriptions of experiencing the jewellery worn and in context, the rush of joy such an encounter brings, starting with the sounds of the jewellery when worn before it is even seen. All of this reminds me that adornments experienced in such a way are more powerful and real than could ever be conveyed by a museum or exhibition. I feel a deep sense of gratitude for this reminder of the jewels as a part of a daily living culture.

The jewels showcased in Berber Memories are exquisite and explored in a manner which is above and beyond any previous book on this topic. The text by Art Historian Michel Draguet brings many wider concepts and connections into play, all of which will lead to discussion and debate. Thus keeping the advancement of the understanding of the material culture very much in focus on a world stage.

For 20 years I have known that a better book on this topic was needed. Today I spent hours immersed in these pages whilst appreciating that someone had finally produced ‘that’ book. This weighty volume surpasses any book I may have imagined and I applaud the team who have brought it to fruition. This beautifully crafted book has the potential to ignite a profound interest in the topic of Moroccan adornment.

Many will view this expansive book and they will adore and appreciate the jewellery, however this book offers so much more. Berber Memories is an invitation to climb into the passenger seat of a jeep with Anne-Marie and Roland in the 1970’s and from that unique viewpoint share the depth of experience, history, geology, culture and the dramatically varied settings of the lives of the Amazigh (Berber) people of Morocco .

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