Traversing Culture: Moro x Morocco
by Jonquil Dun
Unbeknownst to many, the word “Moro” is not just a sobriquet that historians and the native tongue agree to call the Muslim people living in Mindanao. It has a far deeper meaning than that. It came a long way from the Iberian Peninsula before it reached the Philippines with its conquistadors in the 1500s. Moro was what the Spaniards call people inhabiting the northern part of Africa- part of which belongs to what now we call the country of “Morocco”.
The nomenclature may have just come along Magellan’s failed expedition, but the culture had been traversing from the Moros of Africa to the inhabitants of the Philippines centuries before they even set foot at one of the 7,000 islands. To note, many inhabitants have embraced Islam since the early 1300s through trade. Therefore, there was already a barter of cultures long before the name Moro was coined in them. Not only that these two nations share the same religion, but they do also have an equal affinity toward indigenous arts which are demonstrated in fashion, specifically in textiles that are still evident today.
Fast forward to many centuries later, in August 2022, Asia TV Studios and Africa TV Studios re-introduced this bond by organizing an event bringing the Philippines’ Moro designer Azizah Talusan to exhibit the pride of her people- the novel textiles in the region. Azizah showcased her brand’s signature Inaul ensembles that she incorporated with modern cuts and silhouettes. Her brand, Hers Laha, is the first luxury abaya in the Philippines which she established in her college days.
The show featured a collection from a home-grown Moroccan brand, Faidys, which showcased incredible pieces made from repurposed discarded textiles. The 3-day event also featured other Moroccan designers such as Yass Brand, which showcased a stylish kimono abaya collection and private collections from Zineb Joundy x Baby Miranda in a fashion show.
It was supported by prestigious organizations such as the Philippine Embassy, Duty-Free Morocco, and Rotary International, and was held on the sidelines of Modest Fashion Council’s Togethere Summit. The event successfully demonstrated a shared culture and love for indigenous textiles. Hers Laha introduced Inaul and Langkit textiles that the ancestors of her people invented. The arabesque motifs are quite familiarly engraved in the infrastructures and patterns of the Filipino Moro people.
Moro x Morocco symbolized the relationship of the two nations who have witnessed history in different timeframes. To note, Morocco still produced one of UNESCO’s heritage arts that were featured in the fashion giants’ runways such as Dior in 2018. There are notable Moroccan fabrics that are still on the loom in distant villages and preserved in their culture.
“Woman to Woman”, the show was aptly called, reminds us of the hands of those who have preserved the cultures that evident in woven textiles in their respective regions, in the garbs that symbolize our identities. All these tales lie on every calloused hands, wearied eyes, loving heart of womankind, who with love and passion handed a legacy from generation to generation, from woman to woman. It was a dialogue, an introduction, a re-affirmation that these two nations silently communicated for ages.
The event has culminated but it will not end there. It was only the beginning to bring distance closer and make the Moro culture traverse beyond geography, language, and religion.