Zellige (Arabic: ) (also Zellidj, Zillij, Zellij) is terra cotta tilework covered with enamel in the form of chips set into plaster. It is one of the main characteristics of Moroccan architecture though it's also used in other Maghreb and Muslim countries. It consists of geometrical mosaics made ceramic used mainly as an ornament for walls, ceilings, fountains, floors, pools, tables, etc.
Zellidj, Zellig, Zellij, Zillij, Terra Cotta, Moroccan Tiles, Mosaic Tiles,
Ceramic Tiles, Tesserae, Carreaux.
It is believed that zellige was influenced by the Frumuseni Mosaics
of the Byzantines. The art of Zellige flourished at the Hispano-Moresque
period (Azulejo). It then appeared in Morocco in the 10th century using
nuances of white and brown colors. The art remained very limited in use
until the Merinid dynasty who gave it more importance around the 14th
century. Blue, red, green and yellow colors were introduced in the 17th century. The old enamels with the natural colors were used until the beginning of the 20th century and the colors had probably not evolved much since the period of Merinids. The cities of Fes and Meknes remain the centers of this art. Patrons of the art used Zellige historically to decorate their homes as a statement of luxury and the sophistication of the inhabitants. Zellige is typically comprised of a series of patterns utilizing colorful geometric shapes. This framework of expression arose from the need of Islamic artists to create spatial decorations that avoided depictions of living things, consistent with the teachings of Islamic law.
Zellige making is considered an art in itself. The art is transmitted from generation to generation by ma‚lems (master craftsmen). A long training starts at childhood in order to master exceptional skills. Assiduous attention to detail is very important in the process of creating Zellige works. The small shaped (cut according to a precise radius gauge), painted and enamel covered squares are then assembled together in a geometrical structure as in puzzle to form the final single piece. The process has not varied for one millennium though conception and design has started using new technologies such as data processing.