Oulja Artisanal Complex

Authored by:
Jalyn McNeal

Jalyn McNeal

During week 3, students and Language & Culture Peers spent an afternoon over in Rabat's neighboring city, Salé, at the Oulja Artisinal Complex. At the complex, they were able to partake in making pottery, weaving bamboo baskets, and/or constructing zellij with mosaic tiles led by the complex's artisans.

For pottery, everyone first watched the artisans wet their hands and the clay, spin the pottery wheel, and create a small bowl as a demonstration. Then, everyone took turns behind the wheel making their own creations. With the guidance of the artisans, students made bowls, vases, and even tajines! For bamboo, everyone observed a demonstration on how to weave a small basket. After understanding the intricacies in which bamboo baskets are made, everyone tried their hand at recreating the example basket (with the help of artisans of course).

For mosaics, everyone gathered around a pile of mosaic tiles and selected their favorite assortment of colors to construct a form of Islamic art known as zellij. Zellij is a style of mosaic tilework made from individually hand-chiseled tile pieces set into a plaster base. The pieces were typically of different colours and fitted together to form elaborate geometric motifs, such as radiating star patterns. This form of Islamic art is one of the main characteristics of Moroccan architectureand medieval Moorish architecture.

At the conclusion of the activities at the Artisanal Complex, everyone had made something special that they could keep as a souvenir and spark conversations with their host family about.

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