The pot­ters of Bk­erzay

Shouf conser va­tion project Bk­erzay preser ves the cul­tural and nat­u­ral her­itage of the re­gion. Its founder Ramzi Sal­man shares his vi­sion for the fu­ture of ar ti­san work in Le­banon

Lebanon Traveler - - HIDDEN GEMS - Bk­erzay, 03 512020

Lo­cated in the heart of the Shouf, within lus­cious green lands cov­ered with old olive trees, wild pine forests and en­dan­gered flora in­dige­nous to Le­banon that stretch over 200,000m2, is Bk­erzay. Founded by Ramzi Sal­man, the con­ser­va­tion project is help­ing to re­vive the tra­di­tion of pot­tery and also pre­serve the area’s rich nat­u­ral habi­tat. Af ter ac­quir­ing the land in 2009, Bk­erzay be­gan pro­duc­ing pot­tery in 2011 with two artists who pro­duce ce­ram­ics on site – Egyptian mas­ter pot­ter Ah­mad Deif and Le­banese ar­chi­tect and pot­ter Maha Nas­ral­lah. “[Bk­erzay has] evolved into a preser va­tion project. We wanted to preser ve not only the na­ture, but also [sup­por t] peo­ple; en­cour­ag­ing the ru­ral [res­i­dents] and craf ts­men,” says Sal­man. “There are ar ti­sans in the vicin­ity but un­for tu­nately they were van­ish­ing. In or­der to reini­ti­ate [pot­ter y] we in­tro­duced ar t. So [we make] not just the tra­di­tional pot­ter y, but [also] ar tis­tic pot­ter y.” The ce­ramic bowls – con­tem­po­rar y col­or­ful de­signs of min­i­mal trees, pea­cocks and var ious pat­terns all made with tra­di­tional tech­niques – have be­come a Bk­erzay trade­mark and are sold around Beirut from the shop at the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­sity of Beirut’s arche­o­log­i­cal mu­seum ( 01 350000/2660) to Mar Mikhael’s Zawal ( 01 444110). Vis­i­tors can see Bk­erzay’s two res­i­dent pot­ters work­ing on site and even take work­shops them­selves. Sal­man is pas­sion­ate about preser ving the countr y’s ar ti­san tra­di­tions, but Bk­erzay ar ti­sans work on their evo­lu­tion by marr ying it with ar t, rather than keep­ing it in a static state. “We be­lieve that we should net­work to­gether and give new life [to the craf t], not only to preser ve what’s old but to re­new it and give it new blood,” he says. “This is not a project just limited to a spe­cific ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion, it’s a con­cept. We have plans for a big out­let in Beirut. We hope to net­work with other projects of this sor t.” In May 23-24, Bk­erzay held an event to show­case their new pot­ter y col­lec­tion and their com­mit­ment to push­ing for­ward the craf t in Le­banon is also clear from the yearly pot­ter y fes­ti­val they hold each fall that gath­ers pot­ters from all over Le­banon. With nu­mer­ous ini­tia­tives in the works, Bk­erzay is fast-be­com­ing a spr in­g­board for de­vel­op­ing the countr y’s ar ti­san craf ts and pro­mot­ing the prod­ucts of the Shouf re­gion. Bk­erzay are also ded­i­cated to preser ving their nat­u­ral sur­round­ings, pro­duc­ing the fruits of their lands, such as honey, olive oil, soap and herbs, thus giv­ing lo­cals the op­por­tu­nity to work in their re­gion. They are also cur­rently de­vel­op­ing bio plan­ta­tions to pro­duce or­ganic fruit and veg­eta­bles. And with guest­houses, an ar tist’s house and an ex­hi­bi­tion cen­ter de­signed by Nas­ral­lah, soon to be built, they are fur ther trans­form­ing Bk­erzay into a des­ti­na­tion, from which vis­i­tors can en­joy the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment and lo­cal craf ts.

Pot­ter and ar­chi­tect Maha Nas­ral­lah

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lebanon

© PressReader. All rights reserved.