Secrets From The Sahara Dates Part 2 : Date-Palm fronds industry
I know two kinds of people, the ones who are superficial, they take things as they are given to them, everything around them is just there, too passive to think why, too lazy to try to change or create something out of nothing, no ingenuity, no creativity. And i know the ones who are far from being superficial, the innovators who can create awesome things out of the simple things around them, they believe that everything around them is dedicated for them to be used in multiple ways.
Creativity is one of the wonderful features someone can have. I’ve seen people making fabulous things out from the dates trees, if we take the date-palm as a life sample, we would learn the lesson that everything around us in this life, in this nature, in this universe, should not be wasted, everything can be used for the sake of us.
Crafts have an important place in many people’s lives, they vary from one region to another, distinguished according to the natural, social and economic circumstances. Palm fronds industry is one of the amazing crafts that spread especially in the south of Tunisia due to the massive existence of date-palms as fronds are made from the palm leaves, its products are used in different areas like houses, oasis and markets, for more than one duty such as storage, transportation and portage. Today it is limited to the products intended for domestic use because young people have no passion to learn it, leaving the interest to the older men and women especially, some refer to that type of industry as ‘textile industry’. Up to this day, we find large numbers of people who depend on this industry and take it as a craft, its main tools are simple and affordable, hands and teeth in the first place, pointed stones and tailoring secondly, along with some other tools such as scissors, a bowl for palm leaves…etc, the uses of palm fronds are numerous according to its location from the palm such as baskets, mats, brooms…etc. Palm fronds made from palm leaves are the basic materials in this industry and they are smooth, solid and have a pure color which is usually white tends to yellowing, they also vary in specifications from palm to other in size and length. The secondary materials consist of ; an artificial material in the form of powder comes into 4 colours red, blue, green and orange, used to add an aesthetic touch to the products so they do not stay monochromatic. Another secondary material are the sticks extracted from the dry date bunches.
The craftsman relies mainly on manual craftsmanship, characterized by a response to the thought that does not lose sight of what the craft demands of concentration as the essence of crafts is the reshaping of what is found in nature to respond to our needs. One of the most important tools used ; A sharp tool with a wooden handle used for drilling, small knife to clean the sticks, a large needle used for sewing, a pot of copper to do the dyeing, and a pot of pottery to soften the palm fronds.
There exist two main techniques in the south of Tunisia which are the basis of the palm fronds industry : curl and sewing, and there is a kind of gender division of work as men are specialized in the technique of curl while women are better at the sewing process.
Before these two work stages, there’s a phase of preparation in which the fronds are put on an open ground or hanged on the wall so they get dry with the sun rays, this process last two days in the summer time and between five and eight days during winter time. Then after getting dry, the fronds are removed in the early morning to be put in a wooden box or in a corner of a room away from humidity in order to keep them useful for a long period of time that may reach one year. The next stage is putting fronds in a water container before using them so they become soft and flexible again, this would last an hour in normal water and 15 minutes in a warm water, then the final process which is dyeing the fronds by putting them in the bowling water of a copper container then adding the dyeing material, this process lasts few minutes then the fronds are put again under the sun to dry. After getting done with the phase of preparation, starts the other two stages of curl and sewing which are a lot of work themselves.
The products made out from date-palm fronds are numerous, one product can have a variety of functions, one product can be used in different ways, so may pictures help to introduce some of these products. Fronds are one part of many useful parts of the dates-palm, a lot of products and a lot of studies about the date-palm, so great are those trees.