Learning Community through Amazigh Culture

What does it mean to incorporate community and culture in design?

May 28, 2024
two women talking in interviewtwo women talking in interview

Community presents itself in many different forms. In Catalunya, the tradition of “human castling” results in people physically weaving themselves into a human pyramid and hoisting a young community member atop the edifice. In Alaska’s Yup’ik and Cup'ik groups, annual traditions of passed-down dances and ceremonies echo a sense of tightness in the community.

In our latest round of Desert Theme at Ukio, we wanted to honor the communities that forged the concepts we bring into our spaces. We turned towards interior designer Ken Berrada to shed light on the Amazigh influence brought into Ukio’s conceptions.

putting up a light

Interior Designer, Ken Berrada

We started in one of Ukio’s latest installations, the Merzouga home at the flagship. Ken starts us off by taking note of the surroundings.

“We’re in Merzouga in the Gracia neighborhood, which was curated by one of our amazing designers, Naiara. Each apartment is unique and each apartment has a different feel to it, but it still feels like home every single time. This apartment, in particular, draws on Moroccan influence, and being that I’m from Morocco, I’ll be speaking on the matter today.”

Gaining Inspiration for Ukio Homes

How do you strike a balance between feeling at home whilst immersing yourself in a new culture? When living abroad, we frequently can find ourselves walking the line of submerging ourselves into a new setting, but still craving the familial. Whether you’re 10 kilometers or 10,000 kilometers from your home base, this harmony feels quintessential. Ken speaks to that by detailing how Ukio creates a unique space, enriched with cultural inspiration without skipping a beat on the home characteristics.

“All the names of Ukio’s apartments take inspiration from nature and cultures. For each home, there's a name that comes from a natural landscape, a country or a geographical area that has inspired the design. In this specific case, we are in the apartment called Merzouga, a city in the south of Morocco, known for having the largest natural underground body of water in the country.”


At Ukio, we feel a great responsibility to not only honor culture and tradition but to also educate and act as a source of knowledge as we pay homage. With that in mind, the western world has become wholly acquainted with the “Berber culture,” but few might have heard of the Amazigh people. We asked Ken to provide some insight.

Amazigh, or the plural Imazighen, are people who are from the north of Africa, spanning several countries from Morocco all the way to the west and the south of Africa. Tribes have been found all the way in Mali, in Niger. So it's not one specific country, but rather it’s an ethnicity of people. They sometimes bear the name “Berber”. This name is kind of a slur from centuries ago where that word comes from “Barbaros” which was used in a negative way to refer to a lot of different people who did not speak Greek around the Mediterranean Sea. Mostly, the origin of the word translates to “barbarians.” The word that these people used to refer to themselves, and that I believe people should use to refer to them, is Amazigh.”

Symbols of Amazigh Culture

With greater awareness of Imazighen’s origins, we proceeded to breathe in the awe that transpired through the home. Merzouga’s interiors contained many symbols that served a purpose within the space. We asked Ken to elaborate.

living room

“A beautiful symbol that we have used in this project, for example, is the one that you can see on the dining room wall. It is a symbol that represents the home, and it's used as a protection of the home. It symbolizes strength of the structure, and it's very common to see it indoors. The one that you see here is actually doubled. So there are two layers to it.”

We see another beautiful representation of the Amazigh symbols in one of the other homes found within this design round: Khamlia. One of Khamlia's bedroom displays a handpainted Amazigh symbol of fertility, as seen below.

bedside table decor

Amazigh symbols stretch far beyond the home and into the greater community. To broaden our understanding, we asked Ken to tell us a bit more about where these symbols are most commonly found outside the home.

“There are a multitude of ways the symbols are applied to daily life. As for the people themselves, the symbols can be worn on clothes. You can also find them in a decorative way and a protective way on the walls, and on furniture. Perhaps most importantly, Amazigh people like to wear those symbols on their skin as tattoos. And this is something that is mostly centered around women of that culture because a lot of the time they represent the beauty and the strength of the people. So it might look quite striking to us, to our western eyes, to see face tattoos of geometric shapes, but we have to understand that to them it is a sign of beauty. It is a way to keep the tradition alive through the centuries. It's a very beautiful thing to see nowadays that still exists.”

Surge in Amazigh Design Popularity

In the most recent years, Amazigh symbology has gained a following in the Western world. Black and white rugs with mystic shapes have started to find their way into mainstream decor. We asked Ken her thoughts on the resurgence of popularity in Amazigh design.

“So speaking from the interior design perspective, about ten years ago, there was a huge trend surrounding the rugs, most commonly known as the “Berber rugs”, specifically the ones from Morocco with a specific style called Beni Ouarain that suddenly appeared in a lot of very high- end design publications and was very appreciated for its style, for its graphic value, and also for its artisanal touch, because it's all handwoven. Most popularly, they are completely white with a black design, or they are red with a colorful design on top. This opened the way for it to enter common knowledge and into a more mainstream design world. These traditions which are centuries old have always existed. They were not rediscovered, but rather were put back in trend and, thanks to that, the Imazighen were able to shed new light on their design and on their craft, a light that was a lot more appreciative of what they do and it all came from the carpet. From the rug.

Preserving the Depth of Culture

We never want to erase the depth of culture, as is the case for honoring Amazigh design and tradition. Ken continues on how this trend should be coated with intention.

“I think a very important word here is intention. At Ukio, the intention is always to be respectful and pay homage to all the places we take inspiration from. That's why there is some research and a lot of appreciation coming from our designers and teams towards the places that we honor.”

As we continue to go out into the world and admire its beauty through the lens of landscapes, culture, traditions, or what have you, let’s remain grounded in honoring the communities that surround them. Just as we uplift the Amazigh through design, we should travel with the intention of respecting and recognizing the cultures that compose it.