BMS Administrator, Ella, interviewed Amina Boot, BMS member and founder and director of Boho Sahara, about setting up her ethical business selling Moroccan artisan goods in the UK during the pandemic.
First of all, could you tell me a little about yourself and your relationship with Morocco?
I live in the city of Nottingham with my husband and three beautiful children.
My journey with Morocco started around 8 years ago with my first trip to Marrakech, a city filled with so much culture and vibrancy. I was transported back to biblical times and many childhood memories were woken up by this bohemian city of colour, smells and sounds.
Coming from a mixed Asian background myself, my childhood visit at the age of 8 to Pakistan was very similar to the visit I made to Morocco in 2014. I fell in love and I felt like every corner I turned, there was something, from buildings to food and just people doing their thing. The poverty was where my heart felt the need to do something though. I had seen this before when I was 8 years old during my visit to Pakistan.
I fell in love with the souks and all the creative products within these little streets of Marrakech. The people here worked super hard and created some amazing artisanal pieces but they were only selling to tourists in Morocco. I knew I had to try and bring this back home and thought of ways I could make it work.
How did Boho Sahara start?
Fast forward to 2020. This was a challenging year to say the least. It was a problem for the world and one that would have a catastrophic effect for many in Morocco. During the pandemic I watched as Morocco became deeply affected by Covid’s economic impact. As I sat around the dining table home-schooling two children, nursing a baby and watching my husband work, I thought about my place in the world. I wondered how I could use my experiences, both professionally and personally, to support and showcase the talents of the small-scale artisans I had seen in Marrakesh. I decided that now was the time to turn my passion into action.
Where did the BMS come into your journey?
I started Googling to see what manufacturers I could source to showcase those wonderful products to the western world and thought about how I wanted to go about it. I found a comment from a tourist on a site where there was a discussion amongst people about Marrakech and the souks. He mentioned the BMS and how they were supporting different villages through donations. I decided to email the BMS to ask how we could go about supporting locals who made rugs and other artisan products. I emailed a lady called Benedicte who replied very swiftly and then I was put in touch with Mina Metioui who is one of the people who have guided us through this wonderful journey of supporting local villagers. The relationship then began with BMS to help source artisans in the villages around Marrakech. Mina made the first trip to Marrakech for us. As it was during the pandemic, it was very difficult for me to leave with three children at home. Mina was met in Morocco by Abdul Rehman, a BMS member and excellent tour guide and translator.
I was able to re-visit in May 2022 with Mina and Abdul and meet the villagers supported by the BMS myself. The best part of this trip was visiting the villages in Agouhnsane and Talataste. It made everything worthwhile. The love and appreciation was just simply beautiful. And it made me so proud to be involved as a member of this organisation.
And what about the name, Boho Sahara?
The name ‘Boho Sahara’ was created years before and my only daughter is called Sahara. With love of the desert, Berber people and Morocco, there couldn’t have been a better fit. We have created a brand that showcases Morocco’s beautiful artisanal products to the West.
Can you tell me more about the ethical values that are so important to Boho Sahara?
Boho Sahara prides itself on supporting local artisans. Our partnership with the BMS enables us to create ethical and sustainable partnerships with some of Morocco’s finest artisans, empowering them to grow their businesses which in turn creates a positive impact on their families and communities.
As far as possible, we try to work directly with the actual artisan or artisans who make the products and not a third party seller or a manufacturer. In addition, when we sell a rug, we allocate 5% of the UK selling price back to the village where the rug comes from, or to the individual artisan who made the rug, although they are often collective work. This is in addition to the original payment made when purchasing the rug.
Helping small artisanal businesses to flourish also ensures the preservation of skills and techniques passed down through generations of Moroccan makers and enables them to hand their legacy of craftsmanship down to future generations.
And if BMS members would like to learn more about Boho Sahara where can they go?
We have a website, Facebook and Instagram where you can read more about our story and view our beautiful artisan products.