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Designers keeping embroidery tradition alive

On the first floor of a villa just outside the Moroccan capital of Rabat, around 18 children are quietly working on their next piece of embroidery.

But there is something unique about this teaching centre in a country where youth unemployment is high.

Embroidery, according to this school’s founder Fadila el Gadi, is a Moroccan tradition that is rapidly fading. Also, the children spread across the room are either dropouts or have never been to school.

Growing up, Gadi had a special love for the art of embroidery. But after becoming a fashion designer, she realised she needed to act fast if she wanted to see more of that art.

‘Opening a school that teaches embroidery was not only my dream but also a necessity given how this art is dying,’ Gadi said.

‘This not only helps conserve the tradition but also gives these kids a hope for the future because, otherwise they had nothing to look forward to.’

In addition to embroidery, the children are also given French and English lessons and an IT professor helps them get more out of the technology available to help them improve their design skills.

After arriving at the school and prior to the start of the classes, the children take a shower and have breakfast.

Studying at this school is free of charge. Looking at the children perform, Fadila el Gadi is ‘happy she is helping children who had no hope prior to joining’ and also ‘giving them the means to secure a better future for themselves’.

Nadia was one of the two students from the school who won a scholarship to Paris earlier this year. Before joining this centre, Nadia dropped out of school but now wants to be an embroidery artist, showing everyone what she can do.

‘It took me two years to plan and launch this school,’ she said. ‘I initially wanted to launch a bigger school in 2020 but then I thought I don’t want to wait that long.’

Nabila was the other student chosen for the scholarship and ended up spending time learning new techniques and having access to exhibitions, something she never thought she could.

When she started designing, Gadi realised how dramatically the number of ‘masters’ who knew Moroccan embroidery declined, expediting the opening of the school.

When the school opened in 2016, Gadi accepted whoever wanted to join and learn. She did not have time to select individuals, which is something she wants to do for the next batch.

Gadi operates this school with the help of various institutes that provide teachers as well as logistical help. ‘If they fall sick one day, we manage to find a way to help these children,’ she said, stressing that while there was no direct funding from others, help was always at hand whenever she needed.

In addition to the English, French and embroidery lessons, the students have access to a computer lab where a professor helps them improve their designs.

To show their appreciation to Gadi, the students drew up a painting saying ‘thank you’.

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