Tunisia: The arts

Pottery and ceramicarts have flourished since Romantimes and have been enriched byAndalusian and Italian influences.Ancient Tunisian mosaics are justlyfamous and a great many have beenfound, some of which date back tothe 2nd century AD. Most places ofany size in 3rd-century Tunisia had amosaic workshop producingwonderfully colourful designs with adistinctive African influence includingscenes of hunting and wildlife, whichwere used mainly asfloor decorations. Fromthese early beginnings,mosaics have become one of the maindecorative elements ofTunisian architecture.Many public buildings,including hammams,kasbahs and, above all, mosques areworks of art in their own right. Allare based on Islamic styles andmotifs and include elaboratelydecorated doorways, bright coloursand striking minarets.Influenced by theFrench and Italians,painting has become apopular art form inTunisia. The year 1949marked the birth of themost famous Tunisianschool of painting – the École de Tunis. Itspioneers combined newtrends in art with scenesfrom everyday life, andintroduced modern artto Tunisia. Yahia Turki,an early member of thisschool, is considered by many to be the father of modernTunisian painting.The traditional Arabstylemusic thatvisitors are likely tohear is malouf (whichmeans “normal”). Itwas first introducedin the 15th centuryby refugees fromAndalusia. Using amixture of western andArab instruments, it is alively blend of Hispanicand Arabic folk music.

T UNISIAN POTTERY GOES BACK to the Neolithic period when large jugs and vases were used Tfor storage. In the early years of the Muslim era,during the Aghlabid dynasty (649–909), a newtechnique was introduced known as “mirror”dyeing that involved the use of metallic dyes. Theperiods of the Fatimids and Zirids (10th and 11thcenturies) mark a revolution in the decorative artsof this region when figurative images began toappear on vases and mosaics. During those days,Tunisian ceramics were in high demand andwere exported to Andalusia and Sicily.

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