UNESCO recognises Morocco’s ancient metal engraving as Intangible Heritage

In a momentous declaration on December 25, 2023, UNESCO bestowed the esteemed status of Intangible Heritage upon the ancient techniques of metal engraving, specifically those utilising gold, silver and copper, africanews.com reports. 

This accolade is a testament to the rich cultural heritage rooted in the heart of Fez, Morocco, where skilled artisans have been practising the craft for centuries.

Passed down through generations, the meticulous craft of metal engraving has become a cornerstone of Morocco’s cultural identity. Mohamed Arnani, owner of an engraving workshop in Fez, notes that the tradition began in the late twelfth century, originating in the city of Fez and spreading over the years to other Moroccan cities, particularly Marrakesh.

The process involves a series of intricate steps, from the careful selection of high-quality copper to the final assembly of the engraved pieces. Craftsmen use traditional tools to bring designs to life on metal surfaces, employing various engraving techniques such as bas-relief and intaglio, each contributing to the creation of engravings that narrate tales of tradition and craftsmanship.

The cultural significance of metal engraving in Fez is underscored by initiatives aimed at its preservation. Morocco has taken proactive steps, including educational programs to ensure the transmission of knowledge to future generations, recognizing the craft as a threatened heritage. Mustapha Jellok, director of the cultural heritage youth at the Ministry of Culture in Rabat, emphasises that Morocco’s efforts are crucial in protecting this endangered heritage.

Balancing tradition with contemporary demands, artisans in Fez work towards renewing the craft. Moncef Adyel, owner of a copper workshop, highlights ongoing efforts to develop modern paintings and tables, showcasing a fusion of traditional techniques with innovative designs.

Morocco’s recognition of metal engraving as part of its cultural heritage aims to safeguard and promote the identity intricately woven into each meticulously crafted piece. The inclusion of this ancient craft in the prestigious list of Intangible Heritage adds value to its preservation, ensuring that the skills associated with engraving on metals endure and thrive.

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