1. Using brainstorming to think about local art

The study of art and artefacts and how they are produced can provide pupils with a window onto their own culture and community history. It also gives you, the teacher, opportunities to design good activity-based lessons, because there are so many exciting objects and artworks that can be brought into the classroom to stimulate interest and provide ideas for pupils’ own art activities.

The symbols contained in art are most often related to the moral and religious values of a particular society. Therefore, it is important to encourage your pupils to take an interest in the arts – to preserve their own cultural heritage and help them make more meaning of their own contexts. This is why we teach pupils about art.

Case Study 1: Deepening thinking about local artefacts

A day before the first lesson on local traditional art, Mrs Kabalimu, from the Tanga Region in Tanzania, asked her pupils to make a list of artefacts produced in their community, either in the past or in the present. They were to speak to their parents and neighbours in gathering this information. Just to get their thoughts moving, she showed them some examples of artefacts, such as a beautifully woven Makonde basket and a Maasai bead necklace.

The next day, pupils brought back some extensive lists – Mrs Kabalimu would mark each one and return it (see Resource 1: A homework list of local artefacts). She started the lesson by asking pupils to mention names of artefacts they had learned of, which she wrote on the chalkboard. These included the names of carvings, paintings and different drawings, weapons, household objects and accessories. Mrs Kabalimu divided the class into small groups (see Key Resource: Using group work in your classroom [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ) and gave each group the names of two art objects and the following questions:

  • Describe the uses of the objects.
  • What skills are required to produce the objects?
  • Are these skills known to many people?
  • How might the objects be stored and preserved for future generations?

After 15 minutes, each group presented its findings to the whole class. Mrs Kabalimu made notes on big sheets of paper and, as she did so, she summarised the pupils’ ideas into different categories. She knew that it was important to group the ideas and to draw attention to the way they were classified.

These sheets were pinned on the classroom noticeboard and left for a week for pupils to study. Not only were the pupils learning about artefacts in their own community, but they were also being given an opportunity to develop their thinking skills.

Activity 1: Brainstorming and creating local traditional art and artefacts

You may want to look at the diagram in Resource 2: Categories for organising types of artworks and artefacts to assist you with planning this lesson.

  • In a classroom discussion, ask pupils to brainstorm traditional art objects and artefacts they know. Start by giving some examples.
  • As pupils come up with ideas, write them on the board in various categories (see Resource 2).
  • Examine each object classified as a sculpture or carving and ask the class to discuss the skills required to produce these objects, how and where they are produced and how they are cleaned and preserved.
  • Do the same for other categories of objects, covering as many as time allows.
  • Finish the lesson by asking pupils to plan for their next art period, in which they are going to draw pictures of or make some of the objects.
  • Find a space where these can be displayed according to categories. They could later become part of a school exhibition.

Section 1: Exploring the visual arts

2. Studying and making masks