The Zellige of Fez


Zellige is kind of art which is typically Moroccan. It relies on the first place, on burnt soil that is colored. It is of paramount importance in the architecture of palaces and monuments
Zellige is in the first place an artistic product of a modest origine and arranged by the great ability of the maalem. In fact, it has to do with little squares of 10 x 10 cm made of burnt soil and covered with dye (colorings). These squares are manually sized using heavy hammers( MENQACH).
Which are totally in contrast with the soft object obtained. As a second step, these pieces compose a motif which is in total harmony with the traditional traced regulations of the Islamic arts.
A mosaic…? Surely not, but outstanding little ornaments well placed together taking into consideration the diversity of their size and color.
It is an extremely beautiful and incredible piece of art on the wall that it covers or the gate that decorates. In addition to the palaces and houses it haunts.
In fact, all that the maalem of Zellige needs is: gypsum, hands and feet, sun, a piece of wood, Oven (traditional), mineral colorings, a big hammer and o lot of personal knowledge and ability to perform the task.
Zellige is typically artisan's work which is impossible to fulfill wing machines because the combination of its simple ornaments provides a variety of endless (infinite) of drawings and shapes.
On the basis of a whole drawing, the maalem of Zellige, so as to perform the task, deals with about 300 models, thanks to the arrangement of the colors and shapes of the whole motif.
This task of Zellige is necessarily done is group works in which every member is specialized in tracing, splitting (cutting) and of course gathering …. Etc.
The striking paint in every moment we watch a Moroccan artisan at work, be it in big project or in their daily workshops inside the medina, is the contrast between the artistic arrangement Fulfilled and the kind of the raw material used. It is totally simple and recycled, in addition to the tools that are traditionally made of already used objects. This perfect material simplicity is in complete harmony with the perfect techniques brought to the zenith through long centuries of practice. Everything relies on the knowledge of the matter which is gained through tough and long lasting learning processes.
This job, including the secret of learning and acquiring in workshops which takes place at the early stages of a child's life, is traditionally transmitted from father to son, master to pupils. First, the beginner starts performing the simplest tasks relying on his observation of the activity that is taking place around him. Second, He witnesses gradually and progressively all the steps of the job beginning from the valueless to the most valuable. After that, he becomes a real maalem, a commander of great experience who is in charge of a number of workers.
He knows perfectly their work which is out of his own personal experience. Those, who I met are all glad people, fond of their deeds and at ease in their job because they are all well experienced people.
The only disadvantage that confronts this traditional mode of learning this job is the lack of scholastic access for these workers and the adaptation possibilities to their work, taking into consideration the great transformations (changes) that our society undergoes.
Therefore, the maalems have never been to school and can only speak one language.
However, these limits don't hinder them to be effective and influential figures of the Moroccan society and own a local political power as well.
Zellige is used, in the first place, to protect the wall to a man's height and its drawings are essentially geometrical.
The Moroccan Maalems of Zellige are not afraid to show their recipes to the public for the simple reason that material (raw material), tools, and the way to prepare them are of no value while you lack these splitting techniques which are particular.
They need a great deal of practice with a lot of examples and experience.
The brilliant geometrical galaxies of different colors placed in the wall, floors…etc
Palaces, medersas, mosques or muse that dress the fountains of the medina all come from the soil.