Crafted by Felix and Loretta Leu, Berber Tattooing in Morocco’s Middle Atlas is a tremendous account and celebration of the lives of the Berber tribe’s female tattooers in Morocco. Brought to life with illustrations by Aia Leu and edited by Joanna Kate Grant, the book opens up a new and fascinating unseen world of the Berber tattoo traditions…
Berber Tattooing is a unique and tender record of the tribal skin art of Morocco’s Middle Atlas and the female tattooers who created it. Felix and Loretta Leu’s road trip in 1988 consisted of a series of chance encounters. Each one of which opened a doorway into the intimate world of the women of the Berber tribes.
In this book, the women tell their individual stories, revealing the traditions of the tattoo in their culture, together with insights into the lives that they led.
Sensitively captured in drawings from the time, by Aia Leu, the faces of the Berber women speak of a tribal culture that was fast disappearing, even then. As tattoo artists themselves, Felix and Loretta were able to find a common ground with the Berber families, gaining unprecedented access into this sparsely documented Berber art form.
This book of previously unpublished work, collected nearly thirty years ago is a tribute, to the art of tattoo, to tradition, to family and to love.
Hajah pencil on paper, 32 x 24 cm, Aia Leu 1989.
Loretta being hand tattooed by Fatima using the technique taught her by her mother.
Loretta Leu with tattooist Aicha Bent Hamadi in 1988
About the authors:
Felix & Loretta Leu, both born in 1945, were artists, “freaks”, and adventurers. From 1965, when they met in New York City, until 1978, they travelled and lived in America, Europe, North Africa, India and Nepal, and in time were accompanied by four children, who were all born on the road. In 1978 they discovered tattooing as an art form, one with which they could support their family anywhere in the world. In 1981 they chose to settle in Switzerland where they created The Leu Family’s Family Iron Tattoo Studio. Felix died of cancer in 2002. Loretta, lives in Switzerland, walks in fields and forests with her two dogs, and is writing a history of her life with Felix.
Swiss artist Aia Leu was born in 1971, the daughter of Felix and Loretta and the granddaughter of Eva Aeppli, she was born in an old finca on the little Island of Formentera (Baleares). She lives with her family in the mountains of Kenmare, Ireland. Aia is currently working on a series of oil paintings for a two-woman exhibition planned with Titine K-Leu, and also illustrating a 78 oracle deck inspired by ‘Thoth Journey’ a book by JoannaKate Grant.
Aia Leu and Loretta Leu, 2017