Weaving archways create an alluring maze, as the sound of tinkering artisans’ echoes through the hallways inside the Maison de l’Artisanat.
Denden’s house of handicrafts is located just outside central Tunis and next door to the National Office for Tunisian Artisans.
The creation of handicrafts has deep origins in Tunisian culture and famous Carthaginian tapestries show carpets have been made on this land for centuries.
Over the past several years, since the Jasmine Revolution in 2011, the lack of tourism has affected the local artisans and handicraft trade.
“Tourism has gone down since the revolution” said Gannouni Morgia, an artist working at Feki Bilel’s olive wood design and goods store.
Gannouni has worked as an artisan for 12 years and credits Mr Feki Bilel for teaching her how to paint.
Most handicraft trades are taught and passed on with oral tradition.
The Maison is an open space for interdisciplinary artisans to teach new generations and breathe life into old crafts fading in the shadow of modern technologies.
Mr Salah Amamou, President of the National Federation of Artisans said he has hope for Tunisia’s future.
“Tunisia is the only democratic experiment in the Arab world.”
“There has been a lot of responses from countries who have a long history of democracy like France, Italy, America or even Japan. We also hope for Australia to come and explore this society and its culture” said Mr Amamou.
Mr Amamou’s workshop is nestled in the far corner of the Maison, and features carpets designed in the traditional Berber style.
Berber or Amazigh designs feature many motifs depicting animals, geography and cultural ceremonies.
Mr Amamou said some carpet patterns are even inspired by Berber tattoos, that women traditionally put on their heads, hands or legs.
Whilst Tunisian handicrafts have a decent trade to other North African countries, the newly democratic nation is looking to expand its horizons.
The government is being called on by artisans of all trades to create pathways for exporting their goods on a global scale.
A new government was sworn in on 14th November 2019 and with promises abound, local craftsmen are hopeful for more opportunities.
— Toni Ambrogetti @toniambrogetti
*The Foreign Correspondent Study Tour (FCST) is supported by the Commonwealth through the Council for Australian – Arab Relations (CAAR), which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, under their ‘media interns’ flagship program. It is also supported by the New Colombo Plan (NCP) mobility grants.