Silvia Irace

Silvia Irace (Ain Leuh Weaver's Cooperative): Silvia was born and raised in Naples, Italy, where she studied Arabic for her BA at “L’Orientale” University. To help her studies, Sylvia travelled to Cairo and Saudi Arabia, where she interned at the Italian Embassy in Riyadh. In Riyadh, she taught Italian language and culture at cultural associations affiliated to the embassy. Sylvia was studying for an MA in Arab Studies at Georgetown University on a Fulbright scholarship when she went to Morocco for AP. After her fellowship she wrote: “I have learnt about the legal steps to set up a non profit in the Moroccan legal framework, how to frame an Association mission, as well as video taping, editing, and using social media in a more effective way. I improved my Wordpress and website building skills, and my knowledge of Amazigh and Moroccan culture and language. Finally, I have learnt some handicraft skills, by weaving for advocacy.” Email:

Getting started for Morocco

29 May

I want to recall here the first time I got in touch with Khadija Ouchkack, the energetic treasurer at the Cooperative de Tisseaux in Ain Leuh, my host organization for this Summer with the Advocacy Project.

Resolute to train me again to the huge quantities of food to which I will very likely be exposed, my friend Kautar took seriously the task by bringing  me to the best Moroccan restaurant here in D.C. After this exquisite culinary reharsal, we began composing Khadija’s number. The Moroccan community here in Washington is on the rise, Kautar herself being a Moroccan of Amazigh origins whom I met earlier this year: like many other thousands young Moroccans, she had to leave family and friends in search of a more dignified life she might not have probably found, had she stayed in Morocco.

This also has direct effects on Amazigh tradition and its capacity of perpertuating itself, since increasing numbers of young Amazighs are seeking alternative ways of making a living, pushed as they are by economic hardships and the unfair price the weavers receive by wealthier middle men for their products.

Here is the moment the phone started ringing. Being always a little anxious when it comes to a new experience and phone calls in another language, Khadija soon dissipated all my anxieties with her warm and welcoming voice, kindly offering me a room in her house and asking to give her a call once at the airport so as to make sure I would find easily my way once in Ain Leuh.

Women like Khadija and the weavers in Ain Leuh strive tirelessly to support their families and children and keep the tradition alive, at the same time. Benan – one of my predecessors at AP – made it clear from the very first moment that the women she found escaped any stereotypes of victimhood attached typically to them. But – as in the eternal debate over agency and structure, and over which one has the primacy – the underrepresentation of their products is something real, and trying to give greater visibility to Amazigh traditional art that has been passed over centuries is something that can be accomplished without acting patronizingly and, above all, by avoiding perpetuating mechanisms of dependence. I hope I will be able to insert myself  in the path my colleagues have so far so successfully traced and, with this in mind, let the journey begin!


Posted By Silvia Irace

Posted May 29th, 2014

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