A magic called halfa

A magic called halfa
November 2, 2016 Heartisania
In Stories

Halfa, or esparto, is a wild gramineous plant that you can find everywhere in Tunisia, especially in its most arid areas. Halfa-grown plantations boggle the mind: this dry, bristly grass grows tall as a man or even taller. Despite its more than modest appearance, halfa plays a monumental role in the life of modern Tunisia, forming the basis of its ecosystem, economy, as well as its social fabric.


The robust net of halfa’s root system threads the upper layers of ground, like steel chainmail, thus preventing erosion and averting the breakdown. Halfa is a very important element of desiccation control, it is this grass that holds ward of the fertile lands of Tunisia, being constantly attacked by the drifting sands of Sahara. It represents an invaluable export item; thin acicular leafs of this plant are made of tough fibres, strong as a fishing line, which are used in the manufacturing of paper, artificial silk, carpets and many other useful things.


“Société Nationale de Cellulose et de Papier Alfa” is the name of the factory situated in the town of Kasserine in the West of Tunisia. It produces paper from halfa which is famous for its quality, but most importantly it’s the source of constant income for more than 6000 families living not only in Kasserine but also in neighbouring Kairouan, Bouzid, and Gafsa. In the country where more than 90% of all goods are manufactured locally, the development of traditional crafts has nationwide importance. Just as people dedicated to its revival.

Dainty, elegant in their simplicity halfa pieces displayed in Heartisania online-shop, are made by skilful hands of Yemna Assoudi, a craftswoman that pursues this trade for over ten years. Her first teacher was her mother. Today, she teaches young girls from the neighbouring villages herself, instilling the love of this waning craft in them. Sadly, younger generation takes little interest in halfa tradition, so Yemna, passing on her experience to the next generation of craftswomen, does work of utmost importance.


“When I was little, I was always watching the skilful hands of my mum and other female neighbours, laying the thin fibres of halfa and weaving all of those beautiful things. We gathered this green-and-grey grass not too far from our house, and its miraculous transformation into a basket, a vase or a tray seemed like a real magic to me. A magic called halfa!” – Yemna recalls.


Yemna was so impressed by what she saw, she talked her mother into training her in this craft. Now, fast forward more than twenty years. True love for what she does and hard work made Yemna one of the most recognised craftswomen in Tunisia; today she owns a workshop with a small team of highly skilled artisans. You can watch the burning fire endlessly. Or flowing water. Or Yemna taking a long blade of halfa, threading a needle and starting to shape the fibres into a new unusual object. In a few hours of meticulous work, the magic happens: a tuft of dry, bristly grass becomes an exquisite fruit basket, tea tray, a place mat… Those things are born to become something more: the warmth of your house, an elegant table centrepiece, a perfect gift – and, of course, your personal source of daily inspiration.


Discover the infinite beauty of Tunisian halfa art! Bring the elegance and warmth of these handwoven miracles into your house, make it a perfect gift – or your personal source of inspiration. Use the find bar to customise your search, choose desired words from the list of tags on the product page – and find your own, tailor-made way to the untold wealth of Heartisania!

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