Head ornament of the Ait Atta tribes of the Moroccan South

by Cordelia Donohoe of Azul Tribe London

Here is an image of Kezhia Fields wearing a headdress from the Ait Atta tribes of the Moroccan south. It would normally be worn as part of an elaborate hairstyle and headdress marking the wearers identity as part of the confederation of these tribes. The earrings, which are a separate piece of jewellery are joined by a chain also attached to the head. These were worn by women from all over the Draa valley. They date from the early to the mid 20th century.

These were worn by women from all over the Draa valley. They date from the early to the mid 20thcentury.

The jewellery of the country particularly the silver jewellery represents family capital and varies with fortune which for farmers and pastoralists fluctuates in good and bad years. The value of these jewels would be according to weight of silver. Therefore if one needs to eat, one goes to the souk to sell by weight and perhaps to buy if one is replacing sold items. The artisans who supplied the rural silver jewels were mainly Jewish goldsmiths and traders. Often itinerant, these jewelers did not limit their production to a single group, especially in areas where different groups lived side by side.

The women of the Draa wore the most amazing hairstyles of plaits and twists, shaped and encrusted with perfumed henna. The style of the hair enhanced with adornments and ornaments would also mark out the womens’ tribal group,.

Every woman no matter how poor had her finery, containing amuletic properties coming down from ancient times.

The most well known of amulets or amuletic signifiers, particularly protection against the ‘evil eye’ is the number 5, personified by the khamsa – the hand or any item that pertains to the number 5, even if it has more or less elements. Here for example the tiny triangle dangles are actually hands or khamsas but they only have four digits. This could be a kind of concealing – so that four is five minus one. But generally there is always five of something, whether beads, cowrie shells, marks etc.

The headdress is worn by almost all the women of the Ait Atta confederation of tribes in the pre Saharan region and characterizes her hairstyle. Its most often referred to by its name ‘taskrt’ which indicates its ability to hang on. Each of its components bears a specific name. Its centre with its ‘nipple’ is soldered to three rings connecting the chains and plates which relate to the breast. The triangular dangles of course are the hands, a particularly female symbol which some say originate from ancient fertility dolls comprising of head, breasts and legs – 5 elements. Certainly further West in the Sahara the bone Khomeissa is a five element amulet, the same name also used for the Hand of Fatima.

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