Fibula, rings, necklaces: Maghreb jewels shine in Paris

Berber head ornament, Great Kabylia fibula, Tunisian necklace… From the collection of a passionate couple, some 250 jewels from the Maghreb are on display starting Friday at the Institute of the Arab World, revealing the diversity of local know-how.

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“These jewels that women wore were their wealth, their life insurance and their identity document,” underlines Jean-François Bouvier, a retired urban planner who started his collection with his wife during their trips to the Maghreb.

The exhibition of these jewels and ornaments, dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries, begins with the techniques used: engraving and openwork, filigree, granulation, chiseling, molding. It then follows a geographical route in the regions of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

“In Kabylia we use enamel with the three colors yellow, blue and green. If we go to Morocco, we have jewelry in Tiznit (south) for which we use this enamel differently, it will be more amber or coral to make pearls for necklaces,” he comments. the curator of the exhibition, Djamila Chakour.

“If we go further north, in Morocco, in the regions near the Rif, we work more with the metal itself, solid silver,” she describes, interviewed by AFP.

“Thus, through a jewel we can identify a region and, therefore, the tribe, the women who could wear this jewel,” emphasizes Djamila Chakour. “These women are Berbers, Arabs or Jews for some, since we have pieces that date from the period when there were Jewish populations in these countries.”

Numerous ornaments were acquired by the future husband for his wife on the occasion of the wedding and then worn during celebrations, especially religious ones. In addition to its ornamental appearance, certain jewelry had a utilitarian function, such as fibulas used to hold clothing when it was not sewn. Others are decorated with motifs of symbolic or protective value, such as the hand (“hamsa”), or may contain verses from the Koran.

The jewel also provided information about the social status of the woman who wore it. Most of the pieces in this collection are Berber jewelry, from rural or mountainous areas, in silver. Urban jewelry was made mainly of gold.

The Bouvier couple began their collection by purchasing a fibula in a souk in Marrakech. His latest acquisition is a gilt silver necklace, “probably from Djerba”, discovered at the Vanves flea market.

02/12/2016 10:41:24 – Paris (AFP) – © 2016 AFP

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