Preserving Tunisia’s heritage with a modern twist

October 13, 2021

During the summer, wedding season festivities are in full swing in southern Tunisia. And it is this time of year that Salwa Khalfi is the busiest. She prepares orders for “Skhab” – a traditional wedding necklace made with scented beads, believed to heal and bring good luck, that are very popular with brides from Djerba, Tataouine and Tozeur.

“The “Skhab”,” says Salwa, “is an essential piece of jewellery for brides in the Tunisian south. It is the masterpiece of her trousseau. The bride wears it on the night of the ‘Skhab’, when she prepares to leave the parental home to start a new life with her husband.”

Since she was a child, Salwa has been inspired by the women artisans in her community, especially her mother and aunt, who taught her how to shape the ambergris by hand, mixing it with a traditional perfumed paste made from cloves and other local ingredients. It’s a family recipe that’s been passed down from generation to generation.

“Three years ago, on the occasion of Mouled, I produced my first product the skhab rosary which was a hit on social networks. It gave me confidence to start my own business. Using traditional knowledge passed on for generations, I add a trendy and modern side to the accessories I make, which appeal more to women today.”

Salwa took advice from a local support institution to start her entrepreneurial path, learning how to refine her project idea, working on her business model and understanding how to sell her products. She put so much effort and goodwill into it that she was selected by an NGO in the region to get a funding grant.

“My ambition and resilience paid off in the success of my creations. The experts of the Mashrou3i project believed in me and my potential and supported me in transforming my craft business into a successful start-up.”

Supported and advised by the Mashrou3i regional coach,” says Salwa, “I launched my business “Chamchouma for handicrafts” on social media which aims to establish itself in the coming years as a trendy handicraft brand of skhab. I have benefited from training in finance and another one in marketing and communication allowing me to manage orders online.”

Salwa has already tested her products at craft fairs in Tunis and in the region with real success, indicating the value placed by Tunisian consumers on products derived from an ancestral cultural heritage. “It’s time to launch my showroom in Medenine, to meet the growing demand of many women in the region for a wide range of jewellery and accessories.”

Salwa will continue to benefit from Mashrou3i’s support to promote her creations through her showroom “Chamchouma”. She will benefit from the help of an expert in the design of packaging and will be assisted in the photography of her products and the opening of her shop.

The future remains promising for Salwa who doesn’t miss an opportunity to promote her creations in skhab and those of her region, as through her participation in the event ” Livre d’or de l’artisanat Maghrébin” held in late August in Djerba. “This type of event enables me to make the creations of “chamchouma” internationally known and dream that maybe one day I was also export my products abroad.”