[Série] Luja, perennial dyer’s plant (4/4) – Jeune Afrique

Along with the highly refined Beni Ouarain, glittering red carpets historically associated with the Zayanes, a tribe of the Middle Atlas. These would have been colored with extracts a long time ago Rubia laevis and from Rubia peregrina, two endemic species of madder that are cultivated in Morocco and in Saharan oases. If the weavers’ knowledge was preserved, the traditional dyeing process was little by little abandoned in favor of faster and cheaper methods.

All claim the natural label under the pretext that three drops of henna have been added to the color

“Everyone claims the natural label under the pretext that it’s three drops from henna was added to the color, plague Wilfrid Thoumazeau, co-founder of the Secret Berber carpet brand, including a collection made with vegetable dyes. However, nobody has worked with plants for dyeing in Morocco since the 20th century. When the French arrived, craftsmen resorted to synthetics. »

As with the indigo used in the textile industry, dyer’s madder, as is commonly known, is often mixed with products that are harmful to the environment. Recipes decorated with heavy metals were developed to guarantee good performance of the pigments, but do not originate from mass production.

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[Série] Indigo, dye and more (1/4)

“In the old processes, the most beautiful reds were obtained with tin salts,” confirms Patrick Brenac, founder of Green’ing, a company specializing in natural dyes that participated in the development of “Les Naturels from Secret Berbere”. But its initiator remains honest: “Our creations are colored in small strokes, because the technique of coloring vegetables is very complex and involves several lifting times per color container and cooling time. We needed four years of research for the collection. »

Tin, but also lead or even mercury salt… So many components that are now banned for environmental reasons. “We can no longer afford such processes,” notes Patrick Brenac. Me come back so gradually to ancient methods, to natural chemistry. But in order to ensure the permanence of dyed colors on knotted and woven wool, which must last for a hundred years, it is difficult to find a solution that is perfect green friendly.

An “ecological” Moroccan tradition

Such etching, or the method of fixing the color in the fiber, still includes alum salt – an aluminum derivative found in cosmetic products such as deodorant – ecologists point out.

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[Série] Henna, a plant with a thousand virtues (2/4)

According to Michel Garcia, the author of the study Traditional vegetable dye in Morocco (ed. Horizons Maghrébins, 2000), the Moroccan tradition was already a step ahead in these matters. The wool was soaked overnight in a mordant made from water and crushed bitter oranges, and then bathed in a tub of water and dried, chopped mullein roots. After heating and washing, the wool had a garnet-brown color.

Cultivating madder requires a lot of work and patience

The experts are unanimous: first of all, growing madder requires a lot of work and patience. It should take at least three years before the plant produces a root that can be used as a dye. Slow production in line with the new challenges of sustainable consumption, but which can only attract clientele from niche.

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[Série] Bogolan, earth tincture (3/4)

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