Moroccan Pottery Blends 3 Cultures And 1,000 Years Of History

Noor Tagouri takes a firsthand look at the 1,000-year art of Moroccan pottery and ceramics.
Posted at 10:39 AM, Aug 12, 2016

Welcome to Fes, Morocco, home to a 1,000-year-old ceramic art tradition called zellige. The patterns and designs displayed in the pieces have been passed down through generations by master craftsmen and families. 

So we're here at a crafts chamber to see the work that actually goes into making it. 

Training in zellige starts at a very young age and is not easy. I even took a shot at the pottery wheel and well, let's just say I'm definitely keeping my day job.  

When it comes to the design, each one articulated in the mosaics and pottery is taught and memorized. That means no stencils, no decals; every single piece is unique. 

"For Fes, pottery and ceramic is a very old technique," Ceramic teacher Ahmed Lemghare told us. "The people who visit Fes, if they don't visit the ceramic and pottery, they didn't see anything. This is a culture. This is a history."

But this isn't just a culture. The designs are represented by three cultures: Islamic, Berber or Amazigh, and Jewish. The Islamic ones focus on geometrical shapes. The Berber designs are inspired by their traditional face tattoos. And the Jewish designs use the Star of David, menorahs or even the Hebrew language. The strong clay and metal-based colors are all also part of the tradition. Blue from cobalt, green from copper, yellow from icon, red from magnesium and white from nickel. 

"It's high temperature, and also the clay, the clay is very rich with magnesium and zinc," Lemghare said. "So it makes it very strong. It's something timeless. It doesn't crack." 

So next time you see the Moroccan style of zellige pottery, remember that countless hands touched these to make it and that it's a result of culture fusions, hard work and a ton of time. 

Music provided courtesy of APM Music.