Algerian Culture


ARTS AND CRAFTS

  • Pottery:Pottery is a continuously evolving art form. Thanks to the contribution of successive Algerian civilizations, one can detect the influence of the Berbers, of the Arabo- Muslim and oriental cultures, as well as easily noticeable Turkish nuances and „Hispano- Moorish“ characteristics Guelma, M‘sirda and Ait Khlili are some of the Algerian regions renowned for the quality of their clay deposits which are non-existent in other parts of the country.

  • Pottery of the Sahara:the least known of all pottery types is based south of Adrar, in the old Ksar of Tamentit, and is commonly referred to as „black earthenware.“ Best known are ram head shaped ashtrays crowned by a solar disc. From Béchar to BéniAbbès, and Timimoun to Touggourt one can find ancient pottery reflecting the architecture of the regions mentioned.

  • Pottery of the Kabylia:is defined by common traits and a certain likeness. Whether originating in Mâatkas, Bourouh or Ath-Kheir, Berber pottery uses the same symbolism. It combines simplicity, functionality, solidity, water-tightness, aesthetics and human values. Its forms and ornamentation draw from rural cultural symbols and feminine sensibility. The colour red is prevalent.

  • The pottery of Bejaia: and the cities arround is characterized by a wealth of shapes and themes as well as a tremendous creative force. The colour red is used sparingly and judiciously. True to its environment, alternately mountainous and coastal and open to all civilizations such as those of the Phoenicians, Romans, and Turks, it shares a likeness to the pottery of the Great Kabylie. It combines strength, functionality and charm.

  • The pottery from Eastern Constantine, is created from the major kaolin deposits in Guelma. In some locations, from Hammam Maskhoutine to Skikda, one can find very old pottery decorated with agrarian symbols and commonplace objects. Such pottery is marketed on a large scale.

  • In the Pottery of Chenoua (Tipaza),the influence of the sea is pervasive. Roman and Phoenician artistic heritage also prevails in the region. However, the traditions seem to be fading away.

  • The pottery from the Aurès Mountains:is formed in austere shapes and colours reflecting the surrounding environment.

  • The pottery of the Némemchas:is shaped from pinkish clay and is decorated with brownish drawings, and is left unvarnished. This art form was threatened by lyrical improvisation that distorted the original look of this aesthetic pottery.

  • The pottery of M’sirda:s made of high quality clay with sober ornamentation and is given a smooth profile.

  • Leatherwork

  • Leatherwork: is well established in Algerian regions where husbandry is done on a large scale. These arts and crafts are geared towards the production of footwear, belts, horse and camel saddles, containers, pillowcases, sword scabbards, and flywhisks.

  • Leatherwork of Tlemcen:This craft owes a great deal to the local embroidery and sewing heritage. Greatly influenced by Andalusian culture it remains a stronghold of Hispano-Moorish art.

  • The leatherwork of Tlemcen is famous for its motifs and forms used in boots, saddles, satchels, wallets and other manual items used in everyday life.

  • Leatherwork of the Deep South – Tamanrasset:In this region knowhow is organic, mystical and a reflection of the vast surrounding spaces. Inspiration is always glimmering and the product is of very high quality. Whether an Arreg (travel bag), El-sedira (saddlebag) or Tarallabt (wallet) perfection prevails.

  • Leatherwork of Médéa:Synonymous with expertise and refinement, Médéa was once famous for its leather moccasins, harnesses, saddles and belts. Wallets, cigarette holders, and bags embroidered with gold and silver thread were eventually added.

  • Artisans are desperately trying to uphold traditions but trade modernization based on foreign models prevents them from returning to earlier designs.

  • Unequalled reference to the past, whether remote or recent. As told by fabrics combining daintiness, imagination and creativity. Embroidery is a wonderful illustration of know-how influenced by various meaningful cultural contributions. Commonly referred to as „Tarz,“ it is a highly refined urban art form.

  • The Embroidery of Algiers:There are several designations for a single, famous creation, a masterpiece called Tarz, Truz, Triz, „Guerguaf“, or „N‘djoum-Kentid“, meaning „quest for elegance.“ „B‘niqa“, „Caftans“, Qats“, and „Karakous“ are the jewels of ancient El Djazair haute couture. Skillful hands of renowned dexterity sewed wonderful ornamental scrolls on fabrics that have transited from „el gargaf“ to the „fetla“, stopping at „El Kentir“ where the embroiderer or embroideress let his or her imagination run wild.

  • Celebrations are indicative of current trends and fashions. Ottoman Algiers witnessed the success of Badrun, Qwiyat, B‘diya and other B‘niqa and El Abrouk, associated with the constant desire to please and be admired with loving eyes.

  • Embroidery of Miliana:The embroidery style of Miliana is a revised version of that of Algiersand highlights the refined and sophisticated urban touch called „Hadras“. From Blida to Medea, by way of Kolea, the Turkish, Arab and Andalusian influence is visible everywhere. The results are works in total harmony with the heritage of ancient El Djazair.

  • Embroidery of Annaba:These are generally based on floral motifs and were inspired by the works of our Tunisian neighbors, hence their designation as the embroidery „of Nabeul.“

  • Southern Embroidery:(Touggourt and M‘nea) Owing to Touggourt‘s proximity to the M‘Zab valley, the first is reminiscent of embroidery commonly produced in the city of Ghardaia, while M‘nea, known for its rugs, distinguishes itself through many innovations in style, with subtle nuances in shape and color. However, where embroidery in these two cities is concerned the period in which they were produced is of great significance.

  • Copperware

  • The emergence of copperware in Algeria dates back to the Middle Ages. It reflects a variety of successive styles and a major Turkish influence. The copperware trade which relies on copper sheets to produce or decorate art objects, has been perpetuated around casbahs and communities devoted to that art. Vases and containers of unrivaled beauty from Kirouana to Mahbess and Tassa to Taftal demonstrate an incredible range of ornamentation.

  • Algiers, Tlemcen, Constantine, and to a lesser degree Ghardaia and Tindouf are the main sources of this art form. For example, in spite of the passing of time and the disappearance of the famous Zenkat Ennahassia, Algiers is considered the birthplace of this art form, inherited from the Ottoman Empire. Among its specialties are Mahbess, Berreds (teapots), tebssi laachouets (couscous steamers with a conical lid), l‘brik and tassa (used to perform one‘s ablutions), El Mordjen, El Mahrez (pestle and mortar) and S‘nioua (copper or silver tray).

  • The Ottomans, who lived in the city for many centuries, have influenced the art of Constantine known for its huge oriental-like decorative trays. Mahbess, Soukkhna, Cafatira, Kirouana, M‘rach, and El Kettara are icons of this art form. They are produced by the skilled hands of brilliant artisans. They are, in fact, toiletry items used according to urban traditions.

  • Like Constantine and Algiers, Tlemcen has seen age-old Andalusian art, once under oriental influences, develop according to Almohade traditions, which clearly confirms the considerable artistic talent of this multicultural region able to combine authenticity and originality in specialized applications such as bookends, chandeliers, large trays, or the now famous door knockers, vestiges of a rich art form.

  • Ghardaia and Tindouf are lesser-known centers of production of this art but they are deserving of a visit. As a matter of fact, the M‘Zab valley, a highly dynamic cultural center, has found its niche.

  • The production of coppersmiths is nonetheless limited to everyday utensils such as kettles and trays.

  • Jewellery

  • Inspired by a variety of sources, jewellery is the living testimony of an age-old creative force. From prehistory and antiquity to the Middle Ages, from the Roman-Byzantine era to the emergence of Islam, traditional jewellery has always expressed the very essence of those eras through harmonious symbolism Not so long ago Algiers, Tlemcen and Constantine were vibrant jewellery centers, if only because of the sheer number of stands and shops. Other regions are also known for the quality of their jewellery.

  • Kabyle jewelry (BéniYenni):AthYennis are famous for their silver jewellery. The forms and coloursused are specific to the region. The glazing technique was introduced around the 15th Century. One could proudly show off a renewed Ameslukh, Ikhelkhalen (anklet), Taharabt, Tbessaht, Letraks, Tigwedmatin, Adwir, Tbzimin, or Tabzimt.

  • Chaoui jewelry:While of a different shape than Kabyle jewelry, „full“ or „hollow“ Chaouijewelry has stood the test of time yet it has managed to preserve its authenticity. It is defined by the „AlaqTchoutchara“ (earring) that is sadly not made anymore, the Timcherreft (also an earring), the Korsa Bel Quota, a more recent creation, „Amquyas,“ the Abzim, whose close resemblance to the Kabyle fibula can surely be rooted in an obvious ethnic analogy, the Lamessak, a recent creation true to the Chaoui style, the Tinahissin, the Cherketh or Semsem, the khelkhal (ancient ankle bracelet that women from the region never take off), the Guerrar, the Skhab, or necklace, to be found throughout the Mahgreb region.

  • M‘sila jewelry:This tradition that very closely resembles Chaouijewelry of a hybrid style, with Roman and Byzantine external influences, and is based on traditions pertaining to daily life and the environment. Besides the Akhelkhal, one can find Abzims and necklaces whose main characteristic is a close resemblance to Chaouijewelry, although of a less refined style.

  • Tuareg jewelry:This jewellery reflects a well-preserved and wisely maintained tradition, thanks mainly to the legendary Inadens. It attained mythical social status. The Tuareg society is truly devoted to artisans and noble trades, such as jewelry. Its symbolism echoes the perpetual quest of the Tuareg to control natural elements.

  • Pendants, rings, pectorals, earrings, anklets, brass rings, and shell necklaces are all loyal representations of a bygone era. One should also mention the Tareout, Tasralt, Tineralt, Khomessa, TareoutN‘azeref, Tiseguin, Ihebsans, and AsarououamAfer that combine utility and pleasure reminiscent of nearby Black Africa by their mystical aspects. Tuaregjewelry reflects a constant concern for pure aesthetics.

  • Rug and weavings

  • After surviving unscathed for centuries, traditional Algerian rug-making has now blossomed to its full vibrancy. For this trade, time has stood still. Authentic shapes and styles have been preserved even if some rugs show slight hints of modern influences. The range of rugs available clearly demonstrates the Algerian cultural melting pot. Rugs can be of Berber, Maghrebian, Arabo- Muslim, African, or even Oriental inspiration.

  • Rugs of Eastern Algeria:The shapes of rugs of Haracta (Aurès) and Némemcha- Babar (Tébessa-Khenchela) are so similar that distinguishing them is no easy task. Even more so the latter, with its Berber-Oriental symbolic ornamentation, is reminiscent of the legendary Haracti rugs, rooted in everyday life, after the near disappearance of all Chaoui influence.

  • Rugs of Kabylie:Maâdid (M‘sila – BordjBouArréridj) and Guergour (Sétif- Béjaïa) rugs, with their Berber symbols, show the same Oriental influences, however slight, reflecting the various civilizations that have blossomed in the region.

  • The most magnificent weavings are undeniably the rugs of Ain Hichem (Tizi-Ouzou), which combine delicateness and refinement, swathed in folk and rural imagery.

  • Weavings of Oran region:Created with soft and varied tones and gorgeous nuances, these rugs show slight Berber and Hispano-Moorish influences. The rugs of Kalaâ des BéniRached are the most famous of all Oranie. They are an authentic, high quality product, and probably the best product of its genre in the entire Maghreb region.

  • Rugs of Djebel Amour:Made with stunning ingenuity in terms of the complexity of weaving, they are one of the most magnificent specimens in Algeria, famous for their originality and motifs of Berber inspiration. Extremely sober in style, they are defined by a harmonious balance seldom.

  • Southern weavings:OuedSouf (El Oued –Guemmar) rugs are characterized by Ottoman influences and borrow from Némemchi rugs. Those of Béni-Isguen (Ghardaïa) are worldrenowned thanks in part to very effective marketing. Doukkali (Adrar) weavings and those of Timimoun, date back to 1270 of the Hijra and still use original designs.