Tunis Village potteries 'Closed' in Egypt's Fayoum

Amira Noshokaty , Saturday 20 May 2017

Tension over land claims in Tunis Village, in Fayoum, have led local potters to shut down operations in solidarity with villagers


"Closed" is the sign that marked all of the pottery workshops of Tunis Village, Fayoum governorate, for the first time in 30 years.

This small village located in the heart of Fayoum, two hours' drive from Cairo, has been a cultural and artistic hub as well as the haven of indigenous pottery making for the past 30 years.

"The government took down the fence of a pottery workshop of potter Alaa Ibrahim and is threatening to tear down the whole building," explained Mohamed Abu Zeid, potter resident of Fayoum and pottery professor at the German University in Cairo.

It all started when the government decided to add a police unit inside Tunis Village. The government then started searching for spots that are owned by villagers under the claim that it's a state property, escalating tensions.

Government officials were not immediately available for a comment.

The pottery village has been the host of an annual handicraft festival that promotes handicrafts and tourism in the whole of Fayoum.

This year, in it's sixth round, Alex Bank became the main sponsor of the event as part of its corporate social responsibility initiative "Ibdaa Men Masr" (Creativity from Egypt) that connects all Egyptian indigenous and handicrafts artists in order to promote their art.

"We are currently signing a petition from all of the residences and we are addressing the minister of local development directly," explained artist Mohamed Abla to Ahram Online, one of the artistic community builders of Tunis as well as founder of Egypt's only cartoon museum, located in Tunis Village, which is also closed in solidarity with locals.

"We ask the government to clearly legalise the ownership status of the people of the village, who are not breaking any laws by the way. Most of them have bought this land they already live on from the government, who refused or stalled in granting permits or registering the ownership of the land they own.

"Besides, Tunis may be the only village in Egypt whose agrarian land increased during the past 30 years at the hand of villagers themselves who reclaimed the land and used it for agriculture. So the claim of trespassing on agrarian land is not true; the villagers built their houses on sand/rocky land to begin with," he added, arguing that  Tunis is not even a proper village, it’s a small ranch (ezba) that lies within the premises of another village, with two small roads and some 250 houses.

"Now have you ever heard of a police station built inside a place that small? If so, why can't the government locate their police unit inside the already built house owned by the government inside the village?"

Meanwhile all pottery workshops, including the oldest pottery school in the village, are closed in solidarity with villagers.

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