Passion Points: Style
Indagare’s live Souk shopping events (read about the upcoming Spring edition, May 7 through 9) are a great place to hunt for stylish fashion, accessories and jewelry. But even more so, they give members and friends of Indagare a chance to connect with artisans from destinations around the world. So when Melissa met Nathalie Freige, the founder of a very special organization, in Marrakech last fall, she knew the Indagare souk had to have one more vendor.
The embroidered kaftans of Morocco’s Migrants du Monde are interwoven with the stories of their artisans, each stitch telling the tale of a place and time. Created in a joint project with Moroccan women and refugee-migrant women based in Morocco, the clothing is richly embellished with stitching from such places as Iraq, Afghanistan, the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “The spirit of multiculturalism is at the heart of our commitment,” says Franco-Lebanese Nathalie Freige of the Orient-Occident Foundation, an inspiring non-profit organization that hosts the Migrants du Monde workshop. “These women who have fled their country arrive here, often with their knowledge of embroidery as one of their sole belongings.”
The kaftans, made in vibrant colors and with beautifully hand-stitched detailing, will surely get shoppers’ attention during the May Souk. Here, Freige speaks to Indagare about the incredible stories behind the creations, about her favorite places in Morocco and the future of her unique foundation.
The Orient-Occident Foundation was established in 1994. What do you consider as its best achievements so far?
Our two main focuses are on local development and migrations. We have nine centers throughout Morocco that aim to address underprivileged youths and the development of local communities. The first of our achievements has been professional training, since there is no greater reward than helping unemployed youths obtain jobs that will enable them to support a whole family, as well as bolstering their hopes.
Another main accomplishment is that of having become a privileged partner in the issue of migrants. We have opened a welcoming center for refugees and migrants, and manage two apartments that shelter women who are victims of violence and of criminal networks. We also help abandoned children to find someplace to live, along with giving them needed psychological guidance.
How did the Migrants du Monde workshops develop? We pictured it as creating social links enabling women participants to regain their self-esteem and find reasons to get up in the morning. It is, possibly, the first workshop of its kind in the world that brings together refugee-migrant women with Moroccan women in a spirit of multiculturalism. These women who have fled their country arrive here, often with their knowledge of embroidery as one of their sole belongings. Transmitting their know-how becomes transformative: an Afghan woman handing the piece over to a Congolese who in turn shows it to a Moroccan woman. It is a wonderful way to transmit skills and know-how.
Can you share one of the women’s stories?
Here are two in their own words:
- “I left the Congo in 2001, because my country was at war and my family had disappeared. My voyage took three years. I traveled across the Congo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal. I traveled in a canoe, in a car, on foot. The workshop has given me stability and focus.” -Solange, immigrant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo
- “I left Iraq in 2006 because of the war. I had lost my two children. This embroidery workshop has given me a reason to get up and leave my house in the morning, which has helped me so much psychologically.” -Khadija, Iraqi refugee
Looking at the social and economic challenges facing countries in northern Africa, how do you see the future?
Looking at things positively, Arab Spring events have unleashed an incredible amount of democratic debate. People have begun to speak out, express themselves and criticize the state of things, which is constructive. Though poverty, inequality and an identity crisis remain the shortcomings of these countries, a true awareness of these problems has been born.
What is your background and what drew you to Morocco?
I am Franco-Lebanese, born in Morocco and having lived most of my life in Spain. Orient-Occident’s president, Yasmina Filali, is Franco-Italian-Moroccan. We both originate from a blend of East and West, with Morocco standing as the in-between. Diversity lies within us.
What are the places that you prefer in Morocco?
Morocco is extraordinarily varied. The north is completely different from the south. The Atlantic coastline still possesses beaches that are near wildernesses. The Mountain ranges enable one to discover authentic villages, stunning sceneries and the warm hospitality of the local population. Towns like Tangiers or Marrakech are extremely cosmopolitan, with thriving culture, design industries and sports. Mild winters add to its allure.
What would you recommend to a first-time visitor to Morocco?
What are your projects underway for 2013?
We hope to restructure the Foundation to better define its strategy. It’s been eighteen years since we started, and we have acquired a considerable experience over that time. We have to consolidate what’s been achieved and continue to raise funds for our projects in order to make it last.
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