Aya's Night Sky: Responding to Partners in Morocco

Aya's Night Sky

Last Friday evening as the enchanted pink city began to rumble and quake, mud walls vein and crack, and stone-sized chunks of Marrakech crash into narrow lanes, Nawal El Hariti joined her neighbors in the square outside her shop. No one knew what would happen next—the dust settled, the stars blinked. Nawal reached out, as she often does in the course of a week's work, to Ibu's design director, Marisa Nemirow, sharing the frightful moment through the lens of her phone—the fearful faces, impassable paths, her son sleeping in their car.  

Nawal is originally from a community in the Atlas Mountains, but when she was a child of three, upon the death of her mother, was brought to the Mellah, the Jewish quarter of the old Marrakech Medina, to live with her grandmother and, from her, would learn the complex soutache embroideries of Morocco. 

I met Nawal 23 years ago, overseeing a boutique of hand-crafted elegance started by my friend, Meryanne Loum-Martin. Later, she ventured out on her own and opened a shop back in the Mellah named Aya's, meaning beautiful, magical… the name of her daughter. She grew it into one of the finest shops in the city, each artisanal item a testament to her matrilineal heritage, and her hope for her daughter's future.

Moroccan artisans and allies

Ibu began to work with Nawal and her remarkable team of embroiderers. She took me to the village of Ourika to meet them, along with Charlotte Moss (working on a special collection for Ibu); and later hosted Ibu allies for lunch in their courtyard. In a beautiful reciprocity, we brought Nawal to New York to debut our collection with Charlotte and to meet our team. Each season, Marisa and Nawal work out the next best way to convey the threaded language of beauty and magic, worthy of her daughter's name.

So, it is not surprising that those two would be together on the night the sky fell down. What is surprising is the number of friends and allies who wrote me in the hours that followed asking after Nawal and our artisan partners in Morocco. As people heard the devastating news, many hearts opened first to the faces they knew through Ibu.  

Nawal. Meryanne. Wafae. Amina. Madeline. Jewels. And all of those who work and live with them… are safe. Relief. Then I saw the videos outside Aya's shop, as well as those out of the Atlas Mountains, and knew that life had changed for everyone. 

Moroccan Artisans and Allies

We hear a lot about Global Community. But I think: this is it. When the mud bricks are collapsing thousands of miles from me, I feel the grit on my face. When the stars are falling, there are faces I love catching the light. What I cherish most about our Movement that is that Ibu is this community, global and wide as the green earth and yet as intimate as a frightened phone call from the car, or the text I just received—Nawal telling me news of her forced evacuation—Aya's workshop in the old Mellah, for the time being, is down. 

We ask, of course, as did our team upon rising early the next morning, how to be that global community, not just in feeling but in fact. The miles between us are nothing. Linking us are years of collaboration, reciprocity, friendship. Community.  

We are Ibu, many thousands of points of light wrapping around these friends as they take their next uncertain steps in the dark. I hope only that we illuminate the night, that we  help find a path through chaos; that we choose to be present in Aya's night sky.

All the Best,