Artistic Handcraft - Storage vessels

Jar and two-piece cooking pot 
Origin and time: Berber, before or about 1900 
Museum of Ethnology, Vienna
Inv. No. VO_184080 - 184091 (Collection: Renate Menzel/ South- and Central Tunisia)

In the past few years, the documentation of Maghreb handicraft objects made by women was given attention in the ceramics department of the museum. Despite its historical and geographical proximity to Europe, the rural pottery of North Africa, with its traditional Mediterranean forms and ornamentation, had been almost unknown.

In the rural hinterland of South and Central Tunisia, the production of pottery was a customary feature of women´s household activities and was primarily intended for family use. In socio-economic respects, the pottery is different to that produced by means of urban potter´s wheels, exclusively produced and sold by male potters working for specialised guilds. Women in villages eagerly produced vessels without a potter´s wheel, spirally assembling coils of clay with the aid of slurry (a mixture of clay and water), partly engobing their objects with ochre slip before putting them over open fire. While still hot they were sometimes decorated with bitumen. These products were exclusively traded for storing natural produce, such as legumes or cereal. The know-how about manually modelled pottery of the Tunisian rural hinterland is almost forgotten today.