UNESCO itemizing brings new shine to North African metallic artwork

Mohamed Amine Htiouich started honing his metallic engraving expertise as a young person. Now the 37-year-old Tunisian is coaching the subsequent technology within the historical artwork, just lately recognised by UNESCO.

Mr. Htiouich first labored on copper, then silver and eventually gold on the household’s workshop within the previous medina of Tunis.

20 years later, he provides free apprenticeships to younger lovers within the artwork of manually chopping phrases or symbols into jewelry and family objects, a craft typically handed down from father to son.

“I don’t need to see this custom disappear,” stated Htiouich. “I’m afraid that at some point there will probably be no succession.”

The long-standing custom, which has been practised throughout North Africa and West Asia for hundreds of years, was added to UNESCO’s intangible heritage listing final month.

‘Stays undervalued’

Whereas it’s gaining recognition overseas, native artisans remorse that metallic engraving stays undervalued at residence and suffers from a scarcity of presidency assist.

The UNESCO designation “commits us to preserving this distinctive know-how”, stated Imed Soula, a Tunisian artisan who helped get engraving nominated for the listing.

Mr. Soula stated that native craftsmen had been “impressed by the aesthetic, spiritual and cultural references of their societies” when creating the beautiful works.

At his workshop within the Den Den suburb of Tunis, Chiheb Eddine Ben Jabballah typically teaches the craft to girls trying to make jewelry or baskets with chiseled-copper ornaments.

The 68-year-old — who additionally heads Tunisia’s nationwide chamber of craftsmen — has educated tons of of engravers over a profession spanning 5 a long time.

However he stated the apprenticeships are sometimes too quick, lasting solely three months.

“It takes a minimum of two years to be taught all of the methods of engraving,” he defined of the craft, which dates again to the Carthaginians.

The massive number of methods stems from the intermingling of Islamic civilisation and Mediterranean traditions, together with indigenous Amazigh heritage and Far Jap influences.

Pleased with his wealthy occupation, Ben Jabballah regretted nonetheless that it had turn into “little valued” at residence.

In Morocco, artisan Abdelilah Mounir believes the UNESCO designation will “assistance on the tourism and industrial degree”.

‘International publicity’

“It’s good worldwide publicity,” stated Mr. Mounir, who sells copper gadgets within the northern metropolis of Fez.

However for Mohamed Moumni, a jeweller from the northwestern metropolis of Sale, demand isn’t the difficulty in Morocco — a well-liked vacationer vacation spot with famend craftsmanship.

“The issue is the shortage of people that know the right way to do it. We will now not discover craftsmen,” he stated.

In Libya — thrown into chaos for the reason that fall of dictator Muammar Qadhafi in 2011 — artisans complain of a crippling lack of assist.

“There’s little or no improvement of the craft,” stated Youssef Chouchine, 60, one of many few remaining craftsmen in Tripoli’s medina.

With out help from authorities, “it’s solely demand that retains the craftsmen going”, Mr. Chouchine stated.

‘Not state of affairs’

“Nearly all of previous craftsmen have left the commerce already… It’s not state of affairs,” he added.

Public initiatives are additionally few and much between in Algeria, however engraved metallic stays in excessive demand. Every area has its speciality, together with gold jewelry in Tlemcen and silver rings, necklaces and bracelets — typically embellished with coral — in Kabylia and Aures.

“It’s a powerful commerce,” stated Walid Sellami, a 37-year-old jewelry designer from Algiers.

“You don’t want to speak to folks to make gross sales. They’ll see the jewelry for themselves,” he added from his little workshop.

Mr. Sellami discovered his craft from the web after discovering no accessible coaching in his metropolis.

The UNESCO designation “received’t change a lot”, he stated.

Nonetheless, he’s “completely happy and proud” that the ancestral customized has now gained extra recognition.

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