Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Tanneries - Fes, Morocco

Fes Tanneries No 2. 48" x 72". Mixed media and oil on wood panel

Of all the images in my head after my return from Morocco it is the one of the tanneries in the city of Fes which has inspired the first paintings to come out of my studio.

The tanneries have been operating within the walls of the medina since the city was founded over one thousand years ago. The animal skins go in on the back of donkeys and come out as beautiful leather goods.

You can only view the earthen dye pits from the rooftops of the surrounding buildings and once you find your way up there the view is stunning.

The whitewashed vats on the left side are where the skins are stripped and softened in a mix of pigeon poo and cow urine. (This smells so bad that visitors are given a sprig of mint to hold under their noses.) Behind this area, underneath the shade structure, is an enormous wooden cylinder where the skins are washed before being placed in the dye vats on the right. The scale was a little confusing at first - it seemed like a paint palette - until you noticed the men standing in the pits moving the skins through the dye with their legs. No protective gear or gum boots!

More paintings to come - watch this space!