Discovering Tunisian Coloured Sand Art in Djerba

Habib Working

Visit any souvenir shop in Tunisia and you will likely find some small coloured sand art bottles available for purchase. These are small bottles filled with coloured sand layered beautifully to illustrate exquisite patterns and outlines of camels and palm trees. These make for great souvenirs especially for a bargain price of only a few Tunisian dinars per bottle.

However, there is an evolved form of coloured sand art that you probably have not seen or heard of in Tunisia. If coloured sand art bottles are for the mass tourists, then original coloured sand artwork is for unique buyers with distinguished tastes in exceptional contemporary art. In the following article below, you will be introduced to the original coloured sand artwork and the incredible story behind its inception.

Colored Sand Art Pieces
Coloured Sand Art Pieces

The Story Behind the Original Tunisian Coloured Sand Art

Habib Lahmar had developed a passion for creating art ever since he was a young boy living in Tunisia. His dedication towards art and creative passion eventually took him down the academic path of studying interior design in university, and later a career working in the art industry for about 30 years in Switzerland.

Most people would consider Habib to have worked a successful career deserving of a comfortable retirement. But can a real artist ever stop creating? The creativity that matters most for artists is not the practice of technique, but the continual use of their senses and imagination to conceive forms which can be realized in works of art.

Habib Lahmar
Habib Lahmar

Upon returning to Tunisia, Habib was determined to create an art that would be both creative and unique – the first of its kind – something that does not yet exist in Tunisia. He spent 6 months experimenting with colour mixtures by combining sand with various chemicals. Once he had developed a mixture combination to his satisfaction, he would leave this mixture under direct sunlight for the span of one week to ensure there is no loss of colour or quality.

Coloured sand
Coloured sand

A 15 Steps Process of Creating Original Coloured Sand Art

After 6 months, the experimentation evolved into a 15 steps process of creating the original Tunisian coloured sand art. While interviewing Habib, he was careful not to reveal the secrets behind the creation process. He only highlighted a few steps involved in the production.

Canvases made using soft cotton are used for the artwork. After the art design is outlined on the canvas using pencil sketching, the artist would lay the foundation using special glue and other chemical products. Coloured sand is sprinkled onto the foundation according to the art design. More glue could be added to create layers of sand in order to add depth level to the artwork.

Each original art piece is full of an inspiring spectrum of colours. A closer look will reveal that each original art piece is carefully constructed using an assortment of fine grade, coloured sand with high pigmentation for artwork. It is no wonder that the production cost for one single-coloured sand artwork costs about 120 Tunisian dinars. A small picture would take about 90 hours for completion, while a large picture could take up to 120 hours for completion.

Habib Working
Habib Working

Open for Business in Djerba

In 2016, Habib finally opened his business ‘Le Sable en Peinture’ located inside the famous El Fondouk café on the Island of Djerba. The ‘Le Sable en Peinture’ features a gallery of artworks depicting the traditional lifestyle and cultural heritage of Tunisians.

Many locals and tourists visit Habib’s business to purchase his unique coloured sand artworks. His artworks are also sold internationally to France. During my interview with Habib in July 2017, Habib was invited to showcase his artwork at art expositions in Greece and Geneva, Switzerland.

Visit the Le Sable en Peinture in Houmt Souk, Djerba, Tunisia

Visit the Le Sable en Peinture Facebook Page

About the author

Joshua Mok has been living in Tunisia since 2016. He has traveled extensively throughout the country, and has firsthand experience with the language, people, and culture of North Africa. It is his passion to introduce to others some of the best destinations in North Africa that he has experienced.

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