Fourth Grade - Visual Arts - Overview - April

 The Visual Arts lessons for the month of April follow the History lessons, centering on the arts of Ancient and Medieval Africa. The first lesson looks at some artworks of Kush (ancient Nubia) and Axum in East Africa. Students recall some of the tombs of Ancient Egypt, which they studied in First Grade; historians now know that many of these massive structures come from the civilization of Ancient Nubia. The students also look at a stele from Axum as well as churches carved out of rock under the Christian King Lalibela.
The Second Lesson moves to West Africa; the students look at indigenous architecture for West African mosques and compare it with that of other Islamic mosques they studied last month. They complete a model of an indigenous West African mosque as well.
In the Third Lesson, the students look at artworks from the three West African Medieval kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay, concentrating on masks and headdresses that either represent animals or incorporate human and animal aspects together. They then create their own masks or headdresses in the style they have observed.
Finally, the students look at some of the sculpture that was done at the height of the cultures of the cities of Ife and Benin, especially the cast bronze heads that honor kings and royal families. They learn that these strikingly naturalistic sculptures were made to honor kings and the ancestors of kings. They were placed on altars or shrines, which the students make in honor of their own ancestral families, by constructing simple dioramas with symbolic objects and images brought from home.

Fourth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 28 - Kush and Axum

Note for the Teacher
Because so much of the research and writings about Ancient and Medieval Africa is relatively "hot off the press," spellings of place names are still not standardized. We have followed Core Knowledge and several other sources in the spelling of Axum in our lessons. Kenny Mann spells the name of this ancient city and kingdom Aksum.

Identify Kush and Axum on a map of Africa.
Recall the artworks and burial practices of Ancient Egypt.
Note that many Egyptian artifacts were in fact part of the ancient kingdom of Kush.
Look at some illustrations of artifacts from Kush and Axum.
Note the purposes of the artworks.

Illustrations of artifacts from Kush and Axum, see Suggested Books
Classroom-size world map or globe
Map of ancient northeast Africa, showing Kush (Nubia) and Axum (attached)

Suggested Books
Student Titles
Ayo, Yvonne. Africa. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1995.
Another in the Eyewitness Series, this pictures on p. 10 the rock-cut temples of Rameses II at Abu Simbel, probably made by the Nubian peoples of the kingdom of Kush.
Hillyer, V. M. A Child's History of the World. Baltimore, MD: Calvert School, 1997.
This children's classic, first written in the 1930s for students at Calvert School, has recently been revised and includes a chapter about Kush and Axum called AA Christian Kingdom in Africa," pp. 258-263.
Mann, Kenny. Egypt Kush Aksum: Northeast Africa. Parsippany, NJ: Dillon Press, 1997.
Kenny Mann grew up in Kenya and has written a whole series of books called African Kingdoms of the Past. In them she combines newly researched historical details with traditional stories from the cultures she explores. Well-chosen photographs illustrate the text. On page 10 is a color illustration of the head of Rameses II, taken at Abu Simbel (part of Ancient Nubia) as it was being moved to higher ground. On p. 73 is a photograph of one of the few steles that remain in Axum (modern Ethiopia) out of hundreds built originally. The stone church at Lalibela (Church of St. George) is pictured on p. 81.
Minks, Louise. Traditional Africa. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 1996.
Like others in their World History Series, this is sparsely illustrated with black and white drawings. The special feature of the Series is the inclusion of many boxed quotes from good source material. One chapter has material relevant to today's lesson, called "The Glories of East Africa," (pp. 27-34). A small photograph of the stone church at Lalibela is on p. 30.
Opie, Mary Jane. Sculpture. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1994.
Part of the Eyewitness Series, this presents the usual clear, two-page chapter format with excellent color photos of artworks from many cultures. Among the treasures of Ancient Egypt pictured on pp. 20 and 21 is a small color photo of the temple of Rameses II at Abu Simbel.

Teacher Reference
Hirsch, E. D., Jr., ed. What Your 4th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1993.
A map showing the locations of several of the African kingdoms covered in History and Art lessons for this month is on p. 150. Information about churches carved out of rock in Axum (modern Ethiopia) under King Lalibela is on pp. 152 and 153; a small black and white photo of one of the stone churches is on p. 153.

For Review of Egyptian Art
Now that we have evidence that much of the great monuments of Upper Egypt were in fact part of the Nubian culture, these artworks should also be considered part of today's lesson. We suggest for the review of these great monuments the two books recommended for the study of art in Ancient Egypt from the end of the First Grade Curriculum.
Glubok, Shirley. The Art of Ancient Egypt. New York: Atheneum, 1966.
________. The Art of Egypt Under the Pharaohs. New York: Macmillan, 1980.

Begin the lesson by having a student come to the world map to locate the modern political boundaries of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. Review with them the significance of the Nile River in creating the conditions for one of the earliest known civilizations. Show them illustrations of the monuments and tombs generally spoken of as part of the Egyptian culture. Then, referring to the map from their History lessons that shows the area of Nubia, or what was in ancient times known as the kingdom of Kush, point out the proximity of the Nubian and Egyptian lands. Tell them that modern political boundaries shown on the world map do not reflect the historical reality of the civilizations that flourished there long ago.
Review the fact that the history of the Egyptian and the Nubian peoples (the Kush) was greatly intertwined in its ancient history. Tell them: For a great part of the time, the Egyptians ruled the people living in Nubia; however, for a period in the 8th century, B.C., the Nubians ruled Egypt as well as their own kingdom. In fact, many archaeologists and historians now believe that the Nubian civilization is older than that of Egypt, and it was a black African kingdom. The name of the Nubian leader at the time of the conquest of Egypt was Piye (PEE ye). This famous king of Kush has left us evidence of his conquest in a stele (STEEL-a column) that narrates the whole story of his victory. Show them a picture of a stele, and ask what it is made of (stone, granite). Write the word stele on the board and ask the students: What did you study in Third Grade Visual Arts that had the same purpose as the Kush King Piye's stele? (Trajan's Column in Ancient Rome) Ask them to comment on the difference between the original use of such columns, or steles, and the use historians make of them so many years later (originally to glorify the ruler; later, as historical evidence for the presence of a particular culture, sometimes as a key to decipher the language of a particular civilization). Tell the students that about 25 years ago it was discovered through excavations that steles in East Africa were built not only to memorialize the victories of kings but also to mark the tombs of royalty.
Show the students a photograph of the temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel and ask them to tell you what material it is made of (stone) Then ask them to describe what they see (doorway with huge carved figures of the ruler, Rameses II, on both sides, 2 on each side [one now damaged] with tiny carved figures between the legs of the giant figures). Tell the students that the giant figures of the ruler are 60 feet high (estimate 10 times the height of a tall man) and the much smaller figures are carved to represent his family. Ask the students what kind of art this is (relief sculpture). You might review with them Egyptian and Nubian burial practices (from First Grade) and tell them the story of how this particular sculpture was moved in order to save it from the raising of the Aswan dam in the late 1950s.
Tell them that another king of the Kush dynasty by the name of Taharka, a son of Piye, ruled from 690 to 650 B.C. Say to them: Taharka was a great builder, and he decided to copy the temple of Rameses that you just looked at. He built his copy, also carved out of sandstone, at a place called Jebel Barkal, which is at the 4th cataract of the Nile in what was then Nubia, or Kush. (Tell the students that a cataract is a huge waterfall; the sites of the cataracts of the Nile are numbered and marked on many maps). At least one of the great temples that Taharka built of sandstone, he had covered in gold leaf and surrounded with lavish gardens and vineyards.
Next, have someone find the kingdom of Axum on the map of Ancient Africa. Ask what modern country we find in that area today (Ethiopia). Show them that the area has a long border on the Red Sea that helped make Axum a great trading nation. Tell the students that during the height of the Axumite civilization steles were built in order to glorify the ruler, tell the story of his military conquests, and mark his tomb. Show them a photograph of the one remaining Aksumite stele, which is 90 feet high, and tell them that a famous Aksumite king named King Ezana had the stele built sometime between 320 and 350 A.D. Say to them: King Ezana's steles have been especially good evidence for historians, because the story they tell is written in three different languages: Sabaean (seh BEE un) -- of peoples from Saba, directly across the Red Sea in the southwest corner of what is now Saudi Arabia -- Ge'ez (ge EZ), a language related to Arabic and Hebrew and spoken by people in Ancient Axum, plus Ancient Greek.
Tell the students that the Kingdom of Axum became Christian under King Ezana and remained so while most of the area of Africa around was taken over by the Muslims in the Middle Ages. Show them a photograph of the Church of St. George, built by King Lalibela in what is now Ethiopia between 1200 and 1250 A.D. Ask them what they think the church is built of (rock), and point out that it is literally carved out of the rock.
Finally, ask the students to summarize the purposes for which these ancient sculpted structures were made, and make a list of them on the board. The list will probably include
 1. Recording victories of rulers, glorifying rulers
2. Marking tomb sites, honoring the dead, religious beliefs about the afterlife
3. Houses of worship carved out of rock

Fourth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 29 - West African Mosques

Note to the Teacher
Before doing this lesson, the students should have completed their History lessons about the spread of Islam into the Medieval kingdoms of West Africa.

Recall the Christian churches carved from rock under King Lalibela (Lesson 28).
Recall the spread of Islam into West Africa (from History Lesson 33).
Recall the features of Islamic architecture, especially of mosques (from Lessons 26 and 27).
Look at illustrations of the Great Mosque at Jenne or at Mopti.
Discuss the concept of indigenous materials.
Cut out and fold a model of a West African mosque.

Classroom-size map of Africa
Classroom-size map of the world
Maps of West African Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay (see Lesson 28)
Illustrations of Great Mosque at Jenne and/or at Mopti, see Suggested Books
Illustrations of Gothic cathedrals (see Hirsch book), (optional)
Illustrations of indigenous architecture in southwestern United States (optional)
Master of a West African mosque, copies for each student (attached)
Card paper, toothpicks, sand-colored paint, and brushes (optional)

Suggested Books
Student Titles
Ayo, Yvonne. Africa. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1995.
A photograph of a mosque made of sun-baked bricks, similar in architecture to the ones at Jenne and Mopti, is on p. 8.
Hillyer, V. M. A Child's History of the World. Baltimore, MD: Calvert School, 1997.
This children's classic, first written in the 1930s for students at Calvert School, has recently been revised and includes a chapter about the Medieval West African kingdoms (pp. 330-336). This includes a good retelling of the salt-gold trade story and a useful map of the three kingdoms on p. 331.
McKissack, Patricia and Fredrick. The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay: Life in Medieval Africa. New York: Holt, 1994.
The McKissacks were among the first to follow the research and write about this topic for young people. It is still one of the best and most readable for background. Many useful maps are found throughout the book. Photographs of the Great Mosque at Jenne are on pp. 94 and 117. (See p. 93 for what remains of characteristic domestic architecture of Medieval Songhay, utilizing similar indigenous material.) A photograph of the Great Mosque of Mopti, in Mali, is on p. 39.
Mann, Kenny. Ghana Mali Songhay: The Western Sudan. Parsippany, NJ: Dillon Press, 1996.
In this volume of the African Kingdoms of the Past series, Mann deals with Medieval West African kingdoms. A two-page color photo of the Great Mosque in Mopti is on pp. 52-53.
Minks, Louise. Traditional Africa. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 1996.
Minks has a useful, fully annotated timeline for "Important Dates in the History of Traditional Africa" found on pp. 8 and 9. Chapter 2, "Great Empires in West Africa," helps organize the somewhat confusing material now available about Ghana, Mali, and Songhay. Individual maps for the three kingdoms are also helpful.
Teacher reference & for showing illustrations to class
Hirsch, E. D., Jr., ed. What Your 4th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1993.
A map showing the locations of several of the important African kingdoms covered in History and Visual Arts lessons for this month is on p. 150. The Great Mosque at Jenne (or Djenné as it is spelled in Hirsch's book) is pictured on p. 240. One of the rock churches from Lalibela is on p. 153, and  -- for comparison -- European Gothic cathedrals are shown on various pages between 229 and 232.
Isaacson, Philip M. Round Buildings, Square Buildings, & Buildings That Wiggle Like a Fish. New York: Knopf, 1988.
An excellent full-page color photograph of the Church of San Francisco de Asis, built by the Spaniards in New Mexico in 1772 is shown (#22). The strong influence of Native American pueblo architecture is overwhelming, and it is another example of the use of stucco, or adobe, as the indigenous material of choice for architecture in a hot, dry climate.

Briefly review the locations of Ancient Nubia (Kush) and Axum by having someone find them on the map, and also identify the modern countries that occupy the land today. Ask the students which part of Africa these kingdoms are in -- north, south, east, or west Africa (east Africa). Tell them the lands they are going to talk about today are in West Africa. Say to them: At the same time that Charlemagne began to make changes in Europe, and the Medieval Church began to support art, music, and architecture for grand churches and busy monasteries, an area of West Africa developed a civilization supported by the trade between Muslim Arabs in North Africa and the gold mines in lands south of the Sahara Desert. Show them the area on the map of Africa and ask them for the names (from their History lessons) of the three successive empires or kingdoms that developed in the area (Ghana, Mali, Songhay).
Ask the students how the gold and the salt were transported across the great stretch of desert (camel caravans) and why salt was so important that it had a value equal with gold (necessary for preserving meat in the extremely hot climate at a time with no refrigeration). See whether someone can remember and tell the class the story of how the exact locations of the gold mines were kept secret for so many centuries. (The story of "dumb or silent bartering" is retold in Mann's book, the McKissacks' and in Hillyer's, among others.)
Ask the students what religion the people of Africa had during the Middle Ages (mostly Muslim, except for some Coptic Christians in Egypt and those converted to Christianity under King Ezana in Axum). Ask them what religion the people of Europe had during the Middle Ages (mostly Christian except in parts of Spain where there were large numbers of Muslims). Write the word Crusades on the board and ask someone to explain the term to the class. Tell the students: The conflict between Christians and Muslims to take over land in Europe and Asia went on in Africa as well. Ask them how they would describe the Christian church they saw in the last lesson, the one of eight similar churches built in Lalibela, in East Africa (point out on map). (Accept any descriptions that indicate they have looked carefully at it.) Show the illustration (from Lesson 28) again, if you still have it. Ask them: What material are these churches in Lalibela made from? (rock) Where does the rock come from? (part of the formation of the land in that part of East Africa)
Write the word indigenous on the board. Tell the students the word describes people or other living things such as animals and plants that grow and live naturally in an area. Say to them: Native Americans are the indigenous people of the Americas. We can also talk about indigenous plants and animals. That means the plants and animals that have lived in a certain place as far back as we can discover. The material that was used for the Christian churches in Lalibela is the indigenous rock that is part of the mountains of that part of Africa. Now, the Muslims were not happy that this important part of East Africa on the Red Sea would not yield to Islam. It interfered with their trade. What advantage do you think there is to building these churches by carving them out of the indigenous rock? (could be hidden from sight if need be) Do you remember the Gothic cathedrals in Europe that were built during the Middle Ages? Do you remember they went straight up into the air? The churches at Lalibela went straight down. All their artwork is hidden inside, painted on the walls.
Next, show the students an illustration of the mosque at Jenne or at Mopti. Show them on the map where on the Bani River in West Africa the two locations are. (The Bani flows into the Niger.) Remind them that this part of West Africa became Muslim early in the Middle Ages. Then ask the students what they think these buildings are? (mosques)
What material do you think this mosque is built from? (It looks like a sand castle but is actually built of adobe brick, of material indigenous to the area.) What does it look like? (sand) What kinds of lines do you see mostly? (vertical) Tell the students that this material is indigenous to the area. (Remind them of the presence of the Sahara Desert by pointing it out on the map.) Ask them whether this mosque reminds them at all of the mosques they looked at last month (Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and Sylanye Mosque in Damascus -- probably it won't) Why not? (no decorative arts, no colors, no archways or columns, no domes) Ask them: What do you think all those things sticking out of the walls are for? Tell the students that every year the whole community has to repair any damages that have occurred in the mosque. Since the mosques are built of adobe brick from indigenous material that dries in the sun, they sometimes have to replace the adobe bricks if they have been damaged by bad weather in the rainy season. Those things that stick out of the walls are like permanent scaffolding for climbing up the outside walls to make repairs.
Does this mosque have any minarets? (yes -- have someone point them out)
Ask them: Do you see any windows or large openings? (The openings are very narrow verticals, recessed back to provide shade.) Ask them: Why do you think there are so few openings? (extreme heat, hot sun, need shelter from the heat) If you have the Isaacson book, show them the photo of an adobe Christian church from the southwest of the United States and ask them to comment on the many similarities; remind them of the influence of Native American indigenous architecture of the region (pueblos, use of adobe brick, hot sun).
Finally, distribute copies of the model for the West African mosque and go over the directions with the students before they begin. They will need to cut carefully on the cutting lines and fold carefully on the dotted lines. If there is time, let the students paint or color them an appropriate earth or sand color. If their models are made from heavy enough material, they can insert toothpicks to resemble the patterns of scaffolding they have seen on the mosques at Jenne and at Mopti. (They could also glue the model copy to card before cutting.) They may recognize the "battlement crenellations" the Crusaders learned from the Muslims during the Crusades and brought back with them to Western Europe.

Fourth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 30 - Masks and Headdresses of West Africa

Note for the Teacher
Although many recent books have been written for young people about the history of West African kingdoms, they do not contain many examples of the remarkable sculptures that have been some of the glories of these civilizations. At the same time, a great many exhibition catalogs of West African sculpture have been produced at great expense. We have recommended several of these that we have looked at from the Enoch Pratt system (not many are in the Baltimore County system). They are all "coffee table" books whose unusually large format and color photography make them ideal for showing to the class. It is well worth the time to borrow any one of these for Lessons 30 and 31. Each piece is always fully identified as to area and time of origin, materials and methods used, and often its ritual function as well. It is not necessary to read these books; the illustrations speak for themselves. The three African masks shown in the first Teacher Packets Suggested Below, can also be seen Alive" at the BMA.

Observe closely some antelope headdresses of Mali.
Look at other masks and headdresses from Ghana, Mali, and Songhay.
Identify the art form as sculpture.
Note a combination of human and animal features in much of West African sculpture.
Infer the attitude towards nature and animals in West African art.
Complete a mask or headdress inspired by West African sculpture.

Map showing the ancient kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay (see Lesson 28)
Examples of animal sculpture incorporated into West African masks and headdresses, see Suggested Books
Oak tag or card for each student
Scissors, markers, paints, and/or crayons
Narrow sewing elastic (for teacher to cut into lengths and attach to each mask or headdress)

Suggested Books
Student Titles
Ayo, Yvonne. Africa. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1995.
Stylized leopards are carved into a divination bowl pictured on p. 34; a carved head with stylized hairdo, on p. 35. A striking bird ornament of wood, covered in gold leaf, from the Asante of Ghana, is on p. 57.
Mann, Kenny. Ghana Mali Songhay: The Western Sudan. Parsippany, NJ: Dillon Press, 1996.
On the cover is a good photograph of a carved antelope head from Mali. A large reproduction of a now famous pottery fragment from the ancient Kingdom of Ghana combines a human and snake head devoted to the spirit serpent that Mann calls Ougadou-Bida. It is pictured on p. 13, preceded on pp. 10-12 by the story of the sacred serpent as told by the storytelling tradition of the griot. The McKissacks show a smaller reproduction-   of the human-snake fragment on p. 12 of their book, calling it Wagdadu-Bida. (Be alert to differences in the spelling of these ancient deities and spirits, as well as some geographical place names, all of which are newly transliterated into English from other languages.)

Wisniewski, David. Sundiata: Lion King of Mali. New York: Clarion Books, 1992.
A story book about the 13th-century Mandingo king with strikingly colorful cut-paper illustrations by the author utilizing Sundiata's lion motif.

Teacher Reference and for showing illustrations to class
Cheney, Sheldon. Sculpture of the World: A History. New York: Viking, 1968.
Several antelope sculptures from Mali are shown on p. 419; other animal sculptures from West Africa, on pp. 420 & 421.
Fagg, William. Nigerian Images. New York: Praeger, 1963.
Most of the best animal sculptures that appear here originated in Benin. A cock (for an altar of a Queen Mother of Benin) is #44; a cast ram, #45. Four magnificent leopards -- one of metal, the others of ivory tusks -- are #46-49. Elephant heads whose trunks end in hands are #64 and 67. #102-106 are carved heads of antelopes and rams.
________. Yoruba: Sculpture of West Africa. New York: Knopf, 1982.
The frontispiece, pp. 64, 132, and 154 are all sculpted horses and riders that form either headdresses or divination cups, designed to hold the 16 sacred palm nuts of Ifa.
Sieber, Roy, and Roslyn Adele Walker. African Art in the Cycle of Life. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art & Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987.
A headdress of a python is on p. 53. Antelope headdresses are on pp. 64-65. A pair of powerful ram's horns adorn a human head carved in wood on p. 108, and a ram's head of wood is on p. 136.
Sieber, Roy, and Arnold Rubin. Sculpture of Black Africa. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1968.
Photograph #37 is a strikingly colorful wooden mask that combines parts of the human face and hairdo with antelope horns and the mouth of a crocodile. #85 is an elaborate headdress mask, carved of wood that combines a human head topped by a powerful curved python biting the leg of a frog or chameleon. #120 is a mask that looks as though it might be the direct inspiration for the Miro, heart shaped Portrait No. 1 that our students study in Second Grade (slide #2)

Other Resources
A8 Masks," a Teacher Packet with slides from the BMA is available for loan at no cost. The first three of the masks are from West Africa. They are both headdresses and masks, combine features of humans and animals, and their use as part of ceremonial dancing is explained in detail. Although the masks are not as old as those in the Suggested Books, they are directly descended from them, remarkable similar in style and function.
"Art of the Baga," another Teacher Packet with slides is based on an exhibition held at the BMA in 1997. The story behind the exhibition reveals the loss of Baga traditions as waves of Islamic invasions, starting in the 15th century, continued over the area now known as the country of Guinea (finally subdued and colonized by the French at the turn of this century). An attempt to recover some of the traditions (carving the headdresses, remembering and re-enacting initiation rites and other dance ceremonies) is recorded in the exhibition; a 19-minute video tape contains four separate segments that illustrate the ceremonies.

Using the map of West Africa (see Lesson 28) that shows the ancient kingdoms, point out the extent of the kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay to the class; then have a student locate the approximate areas of the three ancient kingdoms on a modern map of Africa, or of West Africa. Tell the students that the art they look at today will be from these areas, from many different time periods.
Briefly review with them by asking what it was that allowed these three ancient kingdoms to develop and become prosperous (trade across the Sahara Desert). Ask them what the main items of trade were (salt and gold). Ask them: How were goods transported across the desert? (caravans, camels, horses). Tell them that animals were very important to these civilizations, for practical reasons they have just identified, but also as creatures of beauty and strength. Say: Even though the people in this area became Muslim before the year 1,000, they retained many of the beliefs they held from earlier times. Water spirits and spirits responsible for a good yam harvest might be celebrated in rituals and dances. For these celebrations, wonderful masks and headdresses would be carved of wood, hammered of iron, sometimes made of a combination of materials. These masks and headdresses were like pipelines to the spirit world, and the more powerful they looked, the better they would connect the person to the spirit world.
Show the students a variety of headdresses and masks incorporating animal forms from some of the books you have chosen, or from a Teacher Packet from the BMA. Be sure to ask them what form of art they are looking at (sculpture). Begin a list of animals on the board (or parts of animals, such as ram's horns, crocodile head) as you go along, with the students contributing the names. Some of the animals you are likely to see are hornbills, ibis, and other birds; rams, horses, crocodiles, pythons, leopards, elephants, antelopes, mudfish. (They may notice that, although camels are common in so many photographs of the area, they are not depicted in the sculpture; ask them why they think this is so.) If some of the masks/headdresses combine human and animal aspects, which is also very common, or parts of several different animals, list the combinations on the board as well. For example, headdresses for the water spirits combine features of sharks, sawfish, and crocodiles. Many combine a human head and face with a carved tusk on the top or some powerful, curved ram's horns (either real or carved in wood).
Taking one or two of the most commonly depicted animals (such as the antelope with elongated horns, or the ram with powerful and curled horns), have the students tell you what qualities the sculptor may have admired in these particular animals (think of the speed of the antelope, the fierce power of the ram's horns, etc.) and write that down as well. Finally, ask them: How do you think the people living in these African kingdoms felt about these animals? (Accept any thoughtful answers.)

Tell the students they are to choose an animal head to depict in a mask. It should be one of the African animals they have seen in today's masks and headdresses or one they can picture very clearly and admire for its particular qualities. Pass out card paper, crayons, markers, and/or tempera paints and brushes. Remind the students that African masks traditionally cover more of the head than our Halloween masks, which really cover only the face. Also, they need to plan ahead for things such as horns by leaving room at the top of the paper, and the placement of eyes will be important. They should paint or color them completely before cutting them out. (They may need help cutting eye holes.) When they have finished, attach a piece of thin elastic or cord at either side for each one so they can be used as well as displayed in the classroom.

Optional Activity
Take a trip to the BMA to compare masks and headdresses from West Africa with Native American masks (see Kindergarten Lesson 5 and Lesson 6, slides #6, 7, and 8).

The students should know that they will be making dioramas or ancestor shrines for the next Visual Arts Lesson 31. Over the course of the next week, they need to think about and bring in any small figures, objects, jewelry, family photographs, or pictures from magazines that they wish to incorporate into their dioramas. They should each bring in either a shoe box or small carton from home to house the diorama. You may want to look ahead to Lesson 31 so that you can help prepare the for the Activity.

Fourth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 31 - West African Sculpture from Ife and Benin

Note to the Teacher
The students will undoubtedly need reminders to bring in objects and images for their dioramas. Brainstorm with them some time before this class about the kinds of things they might want to use to honor grandparents, parents, or other older relatives. For example, someone whose grandmother was a good seamstress could bring something symbolic of that (thread, pins, scraps of cloth); someone who knows his or her ancestors came to this country as slaves from Africa could choose to bring a model ship, some rope or chain; someone whose family includes great cooks, could bring dried food or macaroni as part of the diorama. Encourage them to talk with their parents about the project as well. Parents could have some good suggestions and/or information about ancestors the youngsters wouldn't otherwise know.

Locate the cities of Ife and Benin in relation to the rest of Africa.
Note the religious significance of the city of Ife.
Look carefully at terra cotta, metal, ivory, and wood sculptures from Ife and Benin.
Note the reverence for ancestors among West African peoples of Ife and Benin.
Hear about lost wax casting of bronze sculpture in Benin.
Discuss the nature of the power of West African kings.
Construct a diorama as a shrine to honor personal ancestors.

Map of West Africa, showing the locations of Ife and Benin (see Lesson 28)
Examples of sculpture from the city of Ife, see Suggested Books
Examples of sculpture from Benin, see Suggested Books
Shoe box or small carton for each student with objects, brought from home
Paper doilies, colored paper napkins, or crepe paper for lining the diorama boxes
Glue and cardboard for mounting pictures cut from magazines
Paper and pencil for Key to diorama, or ancestor shrine

Suggested Books
Student Titles
Ayo, Yvonne. Africa. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1995.
A famous Yoruba bronze head from Ife is on p. 11. The lost wax process of casting bronze sculpture of royal figures in Benin is described and shown in detail on pp. 54-55.
A good example of implements of kingship in Benin -- flywhisks, neck rings, and carved elephant tusks -- are pictured on p. 30.
Minks, Louise. Traditional Africa. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 1996.
Check the annotated timeline, pp. 8 and 9 for Ife and Benin. A very early terra cotta sculpture from the Nok culture that preceded the culture centered in the city of Ife is pictured on p. 19 and a typical Benin bronze casting, on p. 20.
Opie, Mary Jane. Sculpture. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1994.
A mask of a cow, from 18th-century Benin, cast in bronze with impressive curved horns and decorated with delicately etched arabesques, as well as a fine oba (king) head from the 16th century are shown on p. 15.
Teacher Reference & for showing illustrations to class
Cheney, Sheldon. Sculpture of the World: A History. New York: Viking, 1968
Sculpted heads from Benin are on pp. 420-423.
Fagg, William. Nigerian Images. New York: Praeger, 1963.
Figures #3 through 10 are large illustrations of some of the finest heads from Ancient Ife. Most are bronze and have the characteristic lines on the face which may represent ritual scarification or some symbolic meaning not yet known. Figures #11-56 are all from Benin, less naturalistic than those of Ife and many of them with multiple collars and other symbols of royal decoration. A group of ivory carvings is also included. Most of the bronze royal heads include many symbols of kingship (swords, fly-whisks, staffs, headdresses).

Have a student locate the Niger River as it flows southeast from the ancient city of Timbuktu into the Gulf of Guinea. Point out the locations of the Kingdom of Ife (flourished from 1200) and the Kingdom of Benin (succeeded Ife in the 1450s) on the map and tell the students that the people who lived in these areas are known generally as the Yoruba (write on the board). Say to them: The Yoruba of Ife and later of the kingdom of Benin produced some of the finest art in all of Africa.
Tell the students that, according to an old Yoruba legend, the city of Ife marks the place where the gods came to earth and created the people, who then spread out to form the rest of the kingdoms of that part of Africa. That means that, for the Yoruba, Ife was the beginning of the world. It became a great center for religion and art during the time of the Middle Ages in Europe. Craftsmen in Ife became skilled metal workers and learned how to cast their sculpture in bronze by the lost wax method, an extremely complex process used also in Ancient Greece. (If you have the Eyewitness Africa book, share the photographs of the process with the class. Otherwise, tell them the basic idea: building a core out of clay-like soil, covering it with a layer of beeswax which is tooled and molded further, then another layer of the core mixture to seal it before it is fired, causing all of the wax to melt. It is then turned upside down in sand and filled with molten bronze that runs into the vacuum created when the beeswax has run out. After the sculpture has hardened and cooled, the artist has to remove the outer seal and dig out the core from the bottom.)
Say to the students: Skilled artists from Ife taught the lost wax method of casting sculpture to people in Benin, where it was used especially for heads of their royal family, especially kings, whom they called obas, and the mothers of kings, who had a very special, cone-shaped hair-do that distinguished them from everyone else. You will see the heads that the artists of Ife and Benin made, most of them very lifelike, highly decorated with collar-like necklaces and special head pieces, often left open at the top for placing a carved ivory tusk with brave deeds of the oba engraved on it. Remember that the Yoruba-speaking peoples who lived in the areas around the Niger River had a great reverence for their kings and royal families. They built shrines, or altars, to the kings and to the ancestors of the royal families. The beautiful carved and cast sculptures that you see were placed on these altars as a way of honoring and connecting with the ancestors.
Show the students as many illustrations of the Ife and Benin sculptures as you can. They may be of terra cotta, ivory, wood, or bronze. Try to have the students tell you what material each one is made from. Bring to their attention how much more naturalistic (life-like) these sculptures are than the masks and headdresses they saw in the last lesson. Encourage them to speculate on reasons for this difference.

Have the students take out the boxes they have brought for housing their ancestor shrines or dioramas, which you have already discussed with them (see Note to the Teacher above). They should also have the objects and images they wish to include. Help them to make a plan for organizing them.
1. First, have them line the shrines with the paper material you have chosen.
2. They should arrange the objects in a way they can be seen and identified. Pictures cut from magazines will need to be glued to pieces of cardboard to allow them to stand. Snapshots may also need propping with cardboard backing.
3. Each student should write his or her name on a separate piece of paper, plus a Key that names each object or image, plus the name of the ancestor it honors and the event or personal characteristic it symbolizes.


Student Titles
Ayo, Yvonne. Africa. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1995. (0-679-97334)
Glubok, Shirley. The Art of Ancient Egypt. New York: Atheneum, 1966.
________. The Art of Egypt Under the Pharaohs. New York: Macmillan, 1980. (0-0273-6470-4)
Hillyer, V. M. A Child's History of the World. Baltimore, MD: Calvert School, 1997.
Hirsch, E. D., Jr., ed. What Your 4th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1993. 0-385-31260-1)
Isaacson, Philip M. Round Buildings, Square Buildings, & Buildings That Wiggle Like a Fish. New York: Knopf, 1988. (0-394-89392-4)
Macdonald, Fiona. The Middle Ages. New York: Facts on File, 1993. (0-8160-2788-9) .
McKissack, Patricia and Fredrick. The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay: Life in Medieval Africa. New York: Holt, 1994. (0-8050-1670-8)
Mann, Kenny. Egypt Kush Aksum: Northeast Africa. Parsippany, NJ: Dillon Press, 1997.(0-382-39657-X)
________. Ghana Mali Songhay: The Western Sudan. Parsippany, NJ: Dillon Press, 1996.(0-382-39176-4)
Martell, Hazel Mary and Gerald Wood. Exploring Africa. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1997. (0-87226490-4)
Opie, Mary Jane. Sculpture. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1994. (1-56458-613-8)
Wisniewski, David. Sundiata: Lion King of Mali. New York: Clarion Books, 1992.(0-395-61302-7)

Teacher reference & for showing illustrations to class
Cheney, Sheldon. Sculpture of the World: A History. New York: Viking, 1968.
Fagg, William. Nigerian Images. New York: Praeger, 1963.
________. Yoruba: Sculpture of West Africa. New York: Knopf, 1982. (0-394-52358-X)
Minks, Louise. Traditional Africa. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 1996. (1-56006-239-8)
Sieber, Roy, and Roslyn Adele Walker. African Art in the Cycle of Life. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art & Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987. (0-87474-822-4)
Sieber, Roy, and Arnold Rubin. Sculpture of Black Africa. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1968.