Large pottery vessel

Berber people, probably 20th century AD
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 evil eye.

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.

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More information


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)


Height: 89.000 cm
Width: 34.000 cm

Museum number

AOA 1973.Af11.1



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