The pots are made on wooden potters wheel, which is an old traditional way still much in use in Guellala. It was amazing to observe how easily and skillfully this old artisan is shaping peace of clay, which in an instant he transformed in the form of plate. The whole process lasted no longer than ten minutes.
The final stage in the process was imaging of plate. He drew a fish by using an wooden stick. It was really amazing experience.
What to buy: Small pots are left 7 days to dry in the shade, larger pots must dry up to 20 days. The kiln is fired up using palm leaves and pots are fired at very high temperature for 4 days. Pots are usually painted by local women, glazed and then fired.
Amazing craft-artist: Underground craftman
I cannot even guess how old this man is but he is probably over 70 years of age and yet, very vital and in good mental state. No need to mention that he was very funny, winking to us and joking all the time. He was moving very fast and we had problems to follow his steps.
Too bad I couldn't understand his speech because this amazing experience would have been even much more interesting.
The first stage in pottery making is the preparation of clay, by adding water and then he knead it like a bread.
The workshop is very large and built underground for insulation. It has several large halls with arcades and looking spectacular to me. The old man has its own deep shaft for mining the clay out of it. The clay is mixed with water which gives it a characteristic red color, by adding salt water the color of clay turns white.
The funniest thing was that the old artisan kept talking all the time, in a language which I couldn't understand at all. While we was moving in between different chanbers, he was talking a lot, probably explaining us the technology of pottery making.
the oldest local pottery master: Great underground experience
I was lucky to rent a taxi who's driver was an excellent guide throughout Djerba. We went on a whole day trip, around the island, and it have cost me only 40 euros. It was the best spent money ever in whole of my African experiences. We have visited Synagogue of eL Ghriba, Fadhloun Mosque, Guellala pottery workshops and Museum of Patrimony and at the end we enjoyed in a folk dances concert in Midoun.
What to buy: If not for other reason this trip was exceptional for visiting the oldest living pottery artisan in Guellala. His workshop (harout) is situated somewhere at the edge of the village of Guellala and I certainly couldn't visit it without our taxi-guide.
Guellala pottery shop: Djerba pottery
Guellala is a small Berber village situated 20km south of Houmt Souk, and it is the capital of ceramics. The potters and ceramists have a long tradition in this village and it has been maintained over time. The local artisans have an original way that they work, their "harouts" (workshops) are long barrel alike rooms built underground for insulation. Clay is mined from around 25m deep shafts as the above this level is crystalline and no good for pots. Pots are painted by local women, glazed and then fired.
- Family Travel
The art of ceramics and pottery is rooted in the local traditions of the Maghreb countries . Indeed, one used, since the antiquity, the terracotta tanks like the earthenware jars to store and preserve harvests of corn, lens, dates and olive oil. Oil lamps and small figurines based on clay are used in the ceremonies of marriages to carry happiness and move away bad spirits. These same articles found at the time of the excavations of the prehistoric coffins confirm the ancestral aspect of this art.
You can buy it almost everywhere.
What to pay: You’ll need to bargain for a good price.
- Luxury Travel
local craft: Sidi Bou Said look
This wonderful gift shop is situated in the Medina (souk) of Midoun, small town located in the middle of the island. I bought some souvenirs here and spend half an hour in chatting with the owner who offered me traditional Tunisian tea.
The shop reminded me alot to Sidi Bou Said, which I have visited last summer, where I have seen such a coloured furniture. As the owner told me, it is the traditional furniture which can be seen in the most of the Tunisian houses.
- Family Travel
More clothes hanged for sale
Outside of the souk, a whole row of shops present more djellabahs of various color and design and a few Gafsa carpets. These Gafsa carpets can be used either as carpets, laid on the soil, or as a kind of tapestry, hanged on a wall.
Clothes hanged for sale
In front of a vaulted narrow passage that leads to the souk, clothes of various kinds are hanged. They look more like tourist stuff that is not designed for a long use than actual clothes for locals, that are much stronger and better sewed.
Women in traditional garments
This photo shows the traditional garments of two Djerbian women, one is in black and the other in white cloth. Both have a thin red stripe at the bottom of their djellabah and a wider stripe slant across the middle of the garment. They walk in front of a shop that sells cloth.
This photo was not taken in Djerba but in Gafsa, where this kind of rugs is made. I thought it was interesting to drop it near the carpet for sale. The frame of the rug is vertical and the woman knit the threads at eye level.
- Arts and Culture
Detail of another knitted rug
You might perhaps have noticed one feature that is very surprising with these rugs. While the Moslem religion, brought in Tunisia by the Arabs, forbids any representation of humans and animals, these rugs represent stylized figures of men and of women, of a camel and goats on the previous rug, of a lion and camels on this one. These traditional designs might be the remnant of the old Berber traditions that does not forbid these representations.
- Arts and Culture
Detail of a knitted rug
The Gafsa rugs have typically a design made of squares. The squares are alternatively dark or pale, which already gives them a special pattern. The colors are very bright. This one has a lot of reds, oranges, browns, blues and reds.
- Arts and Culture
Rugs are hung between both sides of this side street, close to the market. Their design is typical of Gafsa. They are not knotted as in Kairouan but knitted rugs. On the next photos, you will see more of the design.
Spices and straw hats
A little further on the market, on the square, a merchant sells more bulk spices. On the right, an old "Roberval" scale is used to weight the goods. I suppose that the "couffin" (a basket, not a coffin !) with bread and the moped are not for sale ! But the straw hats, typical of Tunisia, are for sale.