Kiss me Habibi
Updated: Jan 4
Interview with Moroccan Jewelry Designer Rhita Benjoullin
Rhita Benjoullin (31) is a multi-talented, mutli-faceted artist. She’s an accomplished architect turned jeweler, a proud Moroccan with a universal soul, a visionary with both feet on the ground.
A daughter of a diplomat and a doctor, Rhita was born in in Bordeaux, France, where her father was sent on a diplomatic mission. When she was six years old, the family returned to Rabat, the capital of Morocco.
“Moving from France to Morocco felt like an adventure. I remember being very excited about being able to spend more time with my grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts. The hardest part was having to learn Arabic. Though my mother tried to speak to us in Arabic at home, my Arabic was far from perfect. In fact, I used to tell my mother that speaking Arabic hurt my tongue.”
Morocco has come a long way since the 90s, culturally, socially and economically. “The Morocco I grew up in was still a patriarchal and traditional society, but I was very fortunate to have open-minded parents who gave me the freedom to go out and explore. My childhood home was frequently visited by my friends, who saw it as a refuge. Their own parents did not give them the same liberties I enjoyed.”
Rhita’s mother had a very strict Muslim upbringing, very different from the way she chose to raise her own children. “Both my parents are a great source of inspiration to me. My mother studied medicine for many years on a small scholarship, and gave birth to my sister during her medical internship. When I think about it today, I don’t think I could handle medical school and motherhood as well as she did. And despite the strict education she had, she remained open-minded and we had a very cool upbringing.” As I got to know Rhita better and learned more about her life and career choices, her vigor and determination; it became very clear that the apple had not fallen far from the tree.
Rhita’s father is just as much of a role-model for her, with his keen intellect and high moral standards. “My father also had a great impact on my professional path. I had originally thought of becoming an interior designer, but my father convinced me to study architecture. He thought it would develop me more, broaden my horizons and create greater opportunities later on. He was so right. Architecture is the driving force behind almost all aspects of my jewelry design, from the ideation process to the execution. The geometric shapes, prototypes, models and the 2D and 3D design software I use to create my jewelry collections, all come from my architectural background.
Rhita studied to be an architect in Paris and practiced architecture for several years, but during that time she developed a passion for jewelry making. “For almost five years I was an architect by day and a jeweler by night, but slowly I realized I was happier making jewelry. My customers bought jewelry to treat themselves or their loved ones. They came and left with a smile, and that made me happy." In 2018 after Rhita’s base of customers expanded significantly, she decided to take the leap and engage full-time in jewelry-making.
Inspired by her architectural training and her Moroccan heritage, Rhita developed her own unique fingerprint. Her creations incorporate sleek architectural elements and geometric shapes of the traditional Berber tattoos projecting an enchanting blend of her cultural origins and historical roots with a universal orientation and progressive outlook. The result, a super-chic and soulful line of jewelry.
“Kiss me Habibi” is the name of Rhita’s latest line of sterling silver jewelry. These stunning, handmade pieces are designed using delicate Arabic calligraphy, subtly enhancing her elegant creations with the magic of such words as “my love" (habibi). “I spent many hours researching the origin of Berber jewels, and what I found most beautiful was that according to ancient tradition, each jewel represented either a stage in the life of the person who wore it or it signified the person’s societal or tribal belonging. I want to transpose this feeling of belonging and recognition into my jewelry. I want people to celebrate life’s little victories and to feel connected to something greater than themselves, and I am grateful that I can add a little bit of sparkle and joy to their lives.”
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