A Methodology for Building Knowledge Memory Within the Handicraft Sector

A Methodology for Building Knowledge Memory Within the Handicraft Sector

Imane El Amrani (National School of Applied Sciences, Fez, Morocco), Abdelmjid Saka (National School of Applied Sciences, Fez, Morocco), Nada Matta (University of Technology of Troyes, Troyes, France) and Taoufik Ouazzani Chahdi (Euro-Mediterranean University of Fes, Fez, Morocco)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/IJKM.2019070103
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The Moroccan handicraft is threatened by the loss of its knowledge and several authorities are calling to safeguard this cultural heritage through a detailed transcription and development of an interactive multimedia system. In response to this call, this article represents a first step in addressing this need. It provided a basic methodology for building a craft memory which will be considered as a benchmark for handicraft knowledge preservation. The study focuses on identifying the most critical and vulnerable know-how and modelling the knowledge which needs to be retained. To do so, a methodological framework is proposed and validated through a case study on the Moroccan zellige craft. The methods used here are derived from the world of Knowledge Management (KM) and Knowledge Engineering (KE); in particular, MASK method, GAMETH and M3C. Nevertheless, their systematic application is not perfectly adapted, it needs to be in accordance to the craft characteristics and the artisan's profile which is the key point of the current study.
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The crafts and arts industry in Morocco have always been a symbol of a rich and original cultural identity, represented in the form of objects handmade by talented and creative craftsmen who have managed to preserve the craft secrets and passed them on from generation to generation. This transmission, which was done in the secrecy of the family workshops, now has lost its effectiveness in facing a fierce globalization and a massive industrialization of products at low cost but of no symbolic value. The Moroccan handicraft industry also plays an important economic role. It employs nearly 2.3 million of workers with a GDP participation rate of 8.6% (Bousquet, 2016). Unfortunately, in recent years, the economic, social and cultural changes in the world are threatening the sustainability of this sector.

Morocco is home to a rich and diversified artisanal heritage that is most often found in its ancestral architecture and dressed in a geometric decoration that leaves you wordless in front of its beauty and great complexity. Among these crafts, the authors chose the Moroccan zellige to be the subject of their study; a kind of handmade mosaic which is considered to be an indispensable element in the Moroccan ornamental architecture. A craft that has kept its authenticity and rudimentary character in the techniques and tools used. Without any complex machinery or sophisticated equipment, but simple tools made from recycled materials that have been developed over the centuries and still remain perfectly adapted to their use. The Moroccan zellige craft has aroused the interest of several researchers of the Western world, particularly Anglo-Saxon academics. Namely researchers including: the mathematician Jean-Marc Castera (1996), the American Designer Jay Bonner (2017), the Islamic geometric design expert Eric Broug (2013) and the professor Emil Makovicky (2014). Most of these works have attempted to study the rules of geometric construction of ornaments and shapes which remained unknown because of the secrecy around the transmission and the absence of written documents.

Given all of this need to manage knowledge in the crafts and arts industry, the Moroccan authorities have launched an appeal for the Safeguarding of traditional ancestral techniques threatened with extinction through a detailed transcription to ensure intergenerational transmission of know-how (“https://www.infomediaire.net/artisanat-excellente-initiative-a-fes/”, 2017). This call came to reinforce our ambition to set up a book of knowledge on the zellige craft. However, addressing such an issue has never been easy since we are dealing with an informal environment in which working with ones’ hands replaces mechanization and observation replaces verbalization. Most artisans are self-employed with minimal education making it difficult for them to benefit from a formal capitalization process or professional growth network. A master craftsman acquires expertise derived from years of practice and experience, but he remains unable to describe the scientific or technical principles related to what he knows. Hence the need to develop an adapted approach to capitalize the experiential knowledge of master craftsmen. Thus, the fundamental question to reflect is as follows: Can knowledge capitalization approaches from the field of knowledge management and knowledge engineering be systematically applied to our case? However, a first review of the literature reveals that the majority of the methods and techniques coming from the fields of knowledge management and knowledge engineering are stemming from the industrial (formal) world and are not suited for a systematic application in the informal world of crafts and arts.

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