24 September 2010

Tunisian tiles ...

 "A tile is a manufactured piece of hard-wearing material such as ceramic, stone, metal, or even glass.  Tiles are generally used for covering roofs, floors, walls showers, or other objects such as tabletops.  The word is derived from the French word tuile, which is, in turn, from the Latin word tegula, meaning a roof tile composed of baked clay.

Tiles are often used to form wall and floor coverings, and can range from simple square tiles to complex mosaics. Tiles are most often made from ceramic, with a hard glaze finish, but other materials are also commonly used, such as glass, marble, granite, slate, and reformed ceramic slurry, which is cast in a mould and fired.

Decorative tilework should be distinguished from mosaic, where forms are made of great numbers of tiny irregularly positioned tesserae in a single colour, usually of glass or sometimes ceramic.  Certain shapes of tiles, most obviously rectangles can be replicated to cover a surface with no gaps. These shapes are said to tessellate (from the Latin tessella, 'tile').

The earliest evidence of glazed brick is the discovery of glazed bricks in the Elamite Temple at Chogha Zanbil, dated to the 13th century BCE. Glazed and coloured bricks were used to make low reliefs in Ancient Mesopotamia, most famously the Ishtar Gate of Babylon (ca. 575 BCE), now partly reconstructed in Berlin, with sections elsewhere. Mesopotamian craftsmen were imported for the palaces of the Persian Empire such as Persepolis.

Islamic tiles
The Persian tradition continued, and after the Islamic conquest of Persia coloured and often painted glazed bricks or tiles became an important element in Persian architecture, and from there spread to much of the Islamic world, notably the İznik pottery of Turkey under the Ottoman Empire in the 16th and 17th centuries. Palaces, public buildings and mosques were heavily decorated with dense, often massive patterns and friezes of astonishing complexity, including floral motifs and calligraphy as well as geometric patterns. In Safavi era there are quite samples of Persian decorative tile. the capital of Safavis was Isfahan at the time and there are popular mosques, churches, palaces, bazaars and public places decorated with decorative motifs of Persian Tile in that era."  The above extract from the following website provides an informative background into tiles. 

In Tunisia, tiles play an important decorative as well as a utilitarian role in embellishing and enhancing certain features in the interior and the exterior of houses. For the most part, the tiles tend to be of a decorative pattern either geometrical, floral or of an image depicting birds, fish and other popular motifs. The earlier tiles are hand-made and it is remarkable that their colours are still fresh even though many of them are hundreds of years old. You will find that some of the tiles in old historic palaces and mosques date back to the time when the Ottoman Turks were here and they supposedly brought Iznik tiles with them to Tunisia. There are also beautiful tiles made in Tunisia in characteristic blues and greens as well as many other colours.

The following eight photographs are of tiles from within our house here in Tunis.

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