Algeria: The Lost Art of the Maghrib
Buried deep within the fortified walls of Marrakech, Casablanca and others; sits the hidden art of Algeria. Almost lost to antiquity, the art of the Maghrib is a unique mixture of symbols and signs found in pottery, textiles, carved or painted wood, leather works, jewelry, amulets, and tattoos.
North Africa, or the Maghrib, comprises Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. The art of the Maghrib is distinguished by a mystical quality drawing on the region’s symbols and signs that originate in pre-Islamic Berber motifs and a rich Islamic heritage and introduced to the region by Arabs in the seventh century.
Algeria’s Kabyle women paint with their fingers on pottery and upon the walls of their village homes; many of their shapes and symbols have a marked resemblance to Neolithic pottery found in the region — believed to carry healing qualities or to embody magical properties that guard against misfortune and the evil eye.
Travelers can enjoy seeking out examples of this intriguing art in everyday examples of handicrafts or by spending time in any of the museums available to tourists. Whether it’s the Fezzan and Tassili petroglyphs or the Neolithic paintings of Morocco, modern-day artists in North Africa have a large reservoir of ancient art and style to cull from that continues to influence their work.
The tourist to Algeria is the one who benefits the most upon seeing this art on display in one form or another.
Islamic art and architecture flourished in the Maghrib, where some of the earliest examples are found in Fez, Qairouan, Meknas, and Algiers. With the exception of Morocco and to a lesser extent Tunisia and Algeria, by the mid-sixteenth century Islamic art centers were centered in non-Arab countries. In the twentieth century, Moroccan artisan – referred to respectfully as mu’alim – continued to preserve traditional crafts with distinctive Andalusian influences. His skills are valued by modern artists who borrow freely from traditional crafts, reformulating old techniques and incorporating them into their work.
Check out the Attractions link on Algeria.com for list of museums and other sites to see and enjoy.