In the north of Tunisia, potters with a thousand-year-old know-how

In the north of Tunisia, potters with a thousand-year-old know-how

Sejnane (Tunisia) (AFP) - Behind her farm, Sabiha digs and pulls a bucket of gray clay from the ground, and as in prehistoric times, she shaped pots, dishes and dolls using techniques passed down from mother to daughter and materials collected from the surrounding valleys.

The potters of Sejnane in Tunisia, whose know-how joined the Unesco list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity at the end of 2018, are known for their works of light earth with irregular colors sometimes decorated with red and black patterns.

"These are Berber motifs, the same as we find on traditional clothing or tattoos," explains Sabiha Ayari, a well-known fifty-year-old potter who works in arduous conditions.

Sitting in a sketchy lean-to with a view of the family fields, she spends most of her time modeling utensils but also stylized turtles and horses.

She works a mixture of clay and crushed bricks trampled by her sister-in-law: the bricks - one of the rare touches of modernity in the process - replace the debris of broken pots that were once added to solidify the raw clay..

After a few days of drying, the two women coat the pottery with a thin layer of white clay, then some are decorated with patterns drawn with ocher red earth.

Sabiha's mother sometimes comes to squat near them to polish the dishes, using a simple shell as worn as her hands, smoothing the earth several times to obtain the glazed appearance.

- From utility to decorative -

No sophisticated tool or oven: a piece of engine serves as a working base, a shoe sole is enough to model the pieces, a stick to draw the patterns.Cooking is done on an open hearth fed with dried dung and dung.bark, giving the pieces their irregular colors.

Posted Date: 2021-03-07

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