African crafts activity book, £6.99
Large pottery vessel
Berber people, probably 20th century
From Fort National, Grand Kabyle, Algeria
This pot, an oil or water container, displays the important elements of Berber design, balance and symmetry. Based on the female form, including breasts and pubic triangle, the vessel is divided in two panels, each of which is further subdivided with reversed patterns. The designs are applied by brush onto the burnished red and white slip before firing. Plant resin is later rubbed onto the surface in order to protect the design, changing the white colour to yellow.
The central raised
motif is known as 'the hand of Fatima' (daughter of
the Prophet). The hand is one form of numerous motifs collectively
known as Khamsa which
are composed of five elements and are intended to bring good
fortune and protection against the
Most North African women use a repertoire of favoured designs in their textiles and pottery. Pots are usually suspended on a wall with their blackened surface facing to the outside.
J. Mack (ed.), Africa: arts and cultures (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)
N. Barley, Smashing pots, feats of clay f (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)