Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Art of Mandur فن مندور

The man who works in pottery is called fakharani (after the word fokhkhar, meaning pottery). An experienced fakharani knows what shapes are in demand and in which season. He must be able to produce the shape of jars used during birth celebrations, the incense burner over which the mother has to step in subu, the celebration held on the seventh day after the birth of a baby. He can fashion jars that look like horses and roosters. And he can make fruit basins embellished with human faces. Fakharanis often keep the secrets of the trade in the family. To be a fakharani you have to come from a pottery making family. If you remember the old drinking jar, called zir, you’ll see that it has a conic bottom, which means that to keep it upright it has to sit on a metal contraption that is circular at the top. The design allows for better cooling and cleansing of the water, and has been also used by the Greeks and the Romans.
The artist Mohammad Mandur, who works mainly in pottery, says that pottery aesthetics improved remarkably in Roman times, and that Coptic monks modified the motifs to suit their beliefs, as did the Muslims later on. Mandur is a great admirer of Fatimid pottery, especially the pieces given a metallic glaze. He says that pieces that came from the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods were of exquisite quality, but things began to deteriorate under the Ottomans.

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