Artisanal Complex of Oulja: Handicraft Workshops

Authored by:
Rihane Zoubairi

Rihane Zoubairi

Language and Culture Session II students visited the Artisanal Complex of Oulja, where they had a first-hand experience of the arts of Pottery, Mosaic, and Bamboo/Rattan.  

The Artisanal Complex of Oulja is located on the Bouregreg riverbank, only a few minutes away from Rabat and Salé. It gathers workshops and shops of artisans specializing in every traditional craft. Potters, basketmakers, coppersmiths, and others create an authentic experience for the visitors who can watch the craft-making and browse to their heart’s content.

Oulja Location. Source: https://maps.google.com
Oulja Potters' Shops.

Our students observed artisans at work and learned from them the arts of pottery, zellij, and basket making. 

Our pottery group took turns using pottery wheels and clay to make vases, cups, tagines, and more. Afterward, they decorated their creations by molding clay into different shapes that would later go on to the piece they originally made.

Alex Making a Cup on the Potter's Wheel.
Students Decorating their Pieces.

The potters in Oulja harvest clay using traditional methods that require heavy physical effort and time. Soil is transported from different regions of Morocco to the potters’ workshops, where it gets dried out, sifted, and pounded until it’s flour-like. The powder is then hydrated, sifted, and left to sit until dry and rock-like. The clay balls are rehydrated and then kneaded into workable clay. The clay objects thus created are left to dry, then placed in a kiln to complete the drying and hardening processes and turn them into pottery. 

Entrance to One of the Pottery Shops.

Our Zellij group created their own Zellij designs using tiny hand-cut pieces of tiles of different shapes and colors. The process included placing the pieces upside-down in a puzzle-like manner within a frame. Afterward, the pieces are sprayed with water, dusted in sand and cement powder, then covered in gypsum paste. 

From R to L: Max, Tom, Tyrese, and Mia at the Zellij Workshop.

Our bamboo/rattan group made little bamboo baskets from scratch using only their hands and the plant.

Students and Site Visitors at the Basket-Making Workshop.

After the workshops, students had some free time to wander around the Oulja and its many shops. Before departure, students gathered for a few moments to reflect upon this experience, what it taught them, and how it made them feel.

Reflection Time.

​After sharing their thoughts and feelings, the students got into the vans with their newly acquired items and skills.

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