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Safi: An Odyssey into the Vibrant World of Moroccan Pottery

by nizar ennabil on July 30, 2023

Our journey through the charming Moroccan city of Safi, an Atlantic fishing port, takes us to the vibrant heart of Moroccan pottery. Safi is world-renowned for its lustrous blue faience, a legacy inherited from the Fassi potters who settled here in the 19th century.

In 1875, a potter named Mohammed Langassi from Fès shifted the face of Safi's pottery, instilling it with a new identity. Langassi introduced the tradition of golden polychrome lusterware to Safi, taking advantage of the exceptional local clay and breathing life into exquisite pottery pieces that glow with a characteristic blue and gold sheen.

Safi's pottery has now garnered international acclaim, producing an array of items, from elegantly shaped objects to traditionally fashioned tiles, which are highly sought-after across Morocco. Local artisans have banded together to form a cooperative, establishing a learning center and a gallery for exhibition and sales.

Travel with me to Bâb Chaâba, a neighborhood buzzing with pottery workshops, each step of the creative process unfolds before your eyes. The creation of Safi's pottery is a symphony of five stages:

  1. The journey begins with raw clay, which, when imbued with water, is skillfully molded by potters.
  2. After drying, a kaolin-based slip from France is applied, giving the pottery a white cast. Following another drying period, the pottery undergoes its first firing, a process that takes two days to cool.
  3. Next is the decoration stage, where each artisan brings their unique motifs to life, utilizing classic symmetrical designs.
  4. The glazing stage adds color and shine to the pottery, an exciting process that employs a "fig juice" mixture, yielding various shades depending on the concentration used.
  5. The final stage is a second firing, setting the glaze and color, resulting in Safi's vibrant polychrome pottery.

These Safi potteries dazzle with their use of vibrant enamels for their faience, deploying a golden brown antimony oxide that gives the ceramics a metallic shimmer. Not just limited to pottery, Safi artisans also create glazed tiles covering three-quarters of their length. Since the King Hassan II's emphasis on the importance of Moroccan decorative elements in architecture in 1981, Safi's potters have been tirelessly producing these dark green tiles, covering numerous buildings. However, a multitude of ochre and brown tiles are also crafted in abundance.

As I walked through the city, the gleaming display of pottery work and the sound of artisans at work transported me back to a bygone era. Safi is more than just a city; it's a testament to Morocco's rich heritage and creative spirit. Whether it's the vibrant blue faience or the beautiful green tiles adorning buildings, the charm of Safi and its pottery craft enchants all. Journey with us through the story of Safi, a place where every pottery piece holds a tale of tradition, passion, and meticulous craftsmanship.

Photo de Fabe collage sur Unsplash