"Harvesting Sonatrach" is an artistic project that was conceived during my foundation year at Harrow College in 2016. As an introduction to clay and pottery, this project marked the beginning of the journey in grounding myself in traditional art methods. The inspiration for "Harvesting Sonatrach" arose after visiting Ai Wei Wei's exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, where I was deeply moved by the intersection of art, culture, and social issues.
The designs in "Harvesting Sonatrach" draw inspiration from the traditional pottery of the Kabyle regions in northern Algeria. These regions are renowned for their pottery, which has historically been associated with women, making it a significant aspect of their culture. The vessels created for this project primarily served domestic chores, such as water and oil storage, and cooking dishes. Significantly, it is the women themselves who produce these vessels, and in doing so, they become the backbone of their families and communities, contributing to the preservation of cultural heritage.
The centerpiece of "Harvesting Sonatrach" is a traditional Kabyle vase that stands as a symbol of the connection to agriculture and the land. Half-completed, it is a representation of the ongoing journey of the artist's exploration into traditional methods of art. The vase is carefully glazed with traditional colors and patterns, highlighting the appreciation for the aesthetics of traditional art.
In a thought-provoking juxtaposition, the vase is stamped with the logos of SONATRACH, the largest oil company in Africa, located and founded in Algeria. This powerful imagery speaks to the complex relationship between traditional practices and the modernization driven by the oil and gas industries. It raises questions about the impact of industrialization on traditional ways of living, and the potential for the loss of cultural heritage in the face of progress.
Accompanying the centerpiece are three smaller bowl-type vessels, each carrying its significance. One contains dates, representing the rich agricultural heritage of Algeria and the importance of traditional farming. Another vessel holds olive oil, symbolizing the traditional practice of producing oil by the Amazigh women. The third vessel contains chakhchouka, a traditional Algerian dish, showcasing the culinary expertise and culture passed down through generations.
"Harvesting Sonatrach" is a profound exploration of the interplay between tradition and modernity. Through the use of Kabyle pottery techniques and glazing with traditional patterns, I pay homage to my cultural roots and celebrate the role of women in preserving cultural heritage. The incorporation of Sonatrach logos serves as a poignant reminder of the impact of industrialisation and raises awareness about the need to balance progress with the preservation of traditions. This project serves as a significant milestone in my creative journey, demonstrating my commitment to exploring meaningful narratives through art.
Mediums used: Clay, Deglat el Nour, Chakhchouka, Zit Zitoune