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: 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)
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.
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
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.
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.