Malika El Bouteqali was born in the rural village of Asrir in the Guelmim-Es Semara region in Southern Morocco where homes made of rich red clay and date palm trees mark the landscape. A ‘Saharaia’ or daughter of the Sahara, she grew up near the city of Guelmim (also spelled Guelmin or Goulimine) bounded by the northwestern Sahara and known as the gateway to the desert and Mauritania where Mushmina’s Mauritania fabrics originate.
A Spin master on the sewing machine, Malika still speaks with the accent of someone from the south. The married mother of four has three daughters, Fatima Zohra (14), Shamaa (12), Wisar (8) and a son, Hatim (5). Malika, who only attended school until the second grade, realizes the importance of education for women as well as men and emphasizes a strong education for all her children.
Curious and driven, Malika paid a neighbor to teach her how to sew while she was living in the Moroccan capital of Rabat where her husband was stationed as a police officer. After her children were born, the family returned to Southern Morocco where her entrepreneurial spirit shone through. Malika and her mother opened their own shop in their garage where they sold clothing and accessories. A quick study, Malika studies patterns and designs that appeal to her and creates versions of those designs with her own unique touch.
Malika has since settled in Oued Zem and has been working with Mushmina for two years. She started with ‘point de croix’ of Mushmina’s embroidered prayer flags, which were later sold to ABC Carpet and Home. Since then she has moved on to work on linen tunics, handbags, pillows, and many other items. Not one to slow down she is also enrolled in the Flying Camel Training Center to learn new techniques and continue improving her skills. On Malika’s list of future accomplishments is also expanding her literacy and learning to speak English.
Whirlwind artisan Malika is motivated to learn, teach, and exchange ideas through the cooperative and serve as an example to her children. Malika’s most fervent hope is that her children go far in their lives and advance beyond what she has achieved. They may have to go far indeed to surpass Malika who hopes to be ‘labas a liha,’ which means to have money, travel and sell products in markets across the world. Most of all she desires to keep growing in all aspects of her life, for as she says, “People always want to improve, am I right?” We couldn’t agree more.
-From “A Window to Morocco Series” – By Heather O’Neill and Yvonne King