Secrets From The Sahara Hands of Mud : Saida Aoun Allah Clay : the demise of ‘Aoun Allah’ family
I was thinking what my next article would be about, as we are in Ramadhan, i move less around places. I’ve been told to write something about myself, i don’t like talking much about myself, plus, that would take forever to talk about. I have a nostalgie to the past so i like talking about the old days though i’ve always heard that the old days are gone and won’t be back, but who knows except God. Checking facebook news feed, a picture posted by a female friend of mine named ‘Hajer Aoun Allah’, whom i’ve never talked with before, got my attention, a picture of a jar, on the top of the picture the girl wrote « mom fabricated that jar for me as a gift » , so i was like ‘your mom just made my day’. I sent her a message asking her about the picture she posted and she informed me that her mother is using clay to produce different kinds of crafts, i inquired her if i can come over so i can write something about it and she replied that i am welcomed at any time i want. They called me next morning to come at about 1 pm so i witness the whole process of making a jar with clay, the sun was on top but enthusiasm was my shadow.
‘Saida Aoun Allah’, with her usual work outfit, sitting in the yard of their house, a pail filled with water by her side, holding a handful of wet red clay between her hands and waiting for me to get ready so she can start. Her husband cheikh ‘Abd Ennour Aoun Allah’, pulled out a chair and sat with us, at first i thought he was jealous, then i figured out that he is the narrator of their history with clay crafts, and what an amazing history he has. The ‘Aoun Allah’ family is the kind of families that make you feel you’re home the first time you meet them. Explaining and describing exactly how she is making these crafts is way too difficult to tell and to understand, so i decided that pictures and videos will lead the readers to recognize the process, meanwhile i went knocking on the memories they have with clay.
‘‘Clay is brought from mountains as rocks, i pound it then winnow it, then i put it in a container to brew. In the morning after doing my household chores, i pull it out and i start doing what i love to do best, small braziers, jars, pitchers, crocks..etc, anything clients ask me to prepare and all made of clay. I keep them for some days to dry under the sun, then i put them in the furnace to stiffen and solidify better.’’ Explained Madam ‘Saida Aoun Allah’ while smutching clay. Then she added : ‘‘I inherited this metier as it was the family profession, i was still a fresh bride when my uncle made me do my first jar, i had more than 10 attempts until i made a good one, it wasn’t that good but it didn’t broke like the others did, my uncle actually helped me to fix it but he said that this was the first and the last time he help me, so i had to learn how on my own looking at my relatives doing them and it was in 1956 when i started that profession. In 1985, i had an accident and i broke both my back and my legs bones, so i became no longer able to bring clay rocks from the mountains, i spent 2 years hands free then my husband took the responsibility of bringing clay for me, then, he also became unable to go that far for clay, so i totally stopped. What i’m producing these days is for me to not forget the profession we lived on.’’
I turned to the husband, ‘Abd Enour Aoun Allah’, i felt that he wants to say somthing and i was right. He said : ‘‘to obtain the clay, we digged deep in the ground for at least 350 metres then we go inside using a rope, or, we go crawling inside the mountains holes and we were careful not to raise our heads so that rocks won’t leave us a scar, and to go inside these holes we took our guns to protect ourselves from the reptiles. This profession is our demise, our bequest. I witnessed these crafts when my grandfather used to sell them with the cost of 40 Tunisian Franc, and i witnessed these crafts being sold with the cost of 4000 Tunisian Franc (4 Tunsian Dinars).’’ Then he addressed me a quote of his : ‘‘The profession your fathers teach you is better than the fortune they would leave to you’’.
Accompanied with ancient stories and poems, i was watching madam Saida doing her work, smiling, she feels alive doing what she’s doing. Saida Aoun Allah is a sample from many hidden treasures who are waiting for a chance to show off again with what they inherited from their fathers. So, whoever said that the old days are gone was wrong, the old days are there but we are just blinded to see them while i believe that we are in an urgent need to see them, first, inside crafts is where lay our identity, second, handcrafts are better then joblessness. Before i leave the house, unconsciously my hand went into my pocket and i gave their daughter Hajer what i had, i felt the want to help but i was in need myself, i told her that what i gave her was the price of the jar her mother made for me, she knew, but she couldn’t say anything in return except a thank you look.
I will leave my contact and Hajer’s contact, in case any of the readers feels the need to help Saida Aoun Allah keep her passion for future generations like she taught her son, she’s not asking for much, she just wants some clay which she buys when she has, or you can also contact Lyn.
Dhouibi Hatem : – facebook : Dhouibi Hatem
- Phone number : 00216 28 086 670
- Gmail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Hajer Aoun Allah : – facebook : Hejer Aounallah
Phone number : 00216 27 255 573