This is an oil pastel project I did with a Grade 7 class based on the art of the South Ndebele people who live in South Africa.
The Ndebele are world famous for their brightly painted houses as well as beadwork. The women of the Ndebele traditionally create the wall art of their home. The tradition and style of house painting is passed down in the families from generation to generation by the mothers.
The house were traditionally built with mud bricks and plastered with mud. Feathers or bundled-twigs were used as brushes to apply the mixture of clay and dung onto the prepared surface. The Ndebele used to paint their homes with cow dung but changed as clays of different colours were added to produce black, red, white, green and yellow.
Today, of course, they buy commercially made paints. The walls are whitewashed and then geometric patterns and shape are drawn with the rich black outline and later filled in with vivid colour. There are five main colours typically used: red and dark red, yellow to gold, a sky blue, green, and sometimes pink. The colour white is always used as the background because it makes the bright patterns stand out more. (Source)
When I lived in Southern Africa, one of my goals had been to visit a traditional Ndebele village. I saw photos of these colorfully painted houses in my parent’s National Geographic magazines growing up and was always fascinated by them. They seemed so contemporary and unlike any other ‘typically’ African architecture. During Xmas break, I was able to visit the Mapoch Ndebele Village, which is located outside of Pretoria in South Africa.
You can see more photos of the village here.
It was one of the most interesting guided tours I’ve ever been on, I suppose, because it was primarily arts-based. I also got the chance to meet the famous Ndebele artist, Francina Ndimande. I asked her a few questions about her technique. While she was very reserved and succinct with her answers (to say the least!) she did tell me that she uses no references for inspiration- all the designs come from her mind. She also doesn't pre-plan any ideas. I also asked her if she used a ruler to achieve the perfectly straight lines and she said no.
The guide told us that the art of house painting may die out because the young people today are ‘lazy’ (lol) and not willing to learn the craft. There’s a really beautiful gift store there with all proceeds going to the artists. So I was able to buy a small painting by Francine and a traditional beaded doll.
So for the project, I introduced the students to Ndebele art through a slideshow of photos. I also passed out my own personal photos so they would have ideas and inspiration for their border design. Students also brought in a photo of an African animal of their choice.
They started off by measuring and designing a thick border (at least 2 inches) filled with bold geometric shapes.
Once the border was complete, students drew the animal inside. They could choose to draw only the head (cropping) or the whole animal. Once drawn, students coloured the animal using oil pastels. I encouraged them to lay the colours on THICK and mix and blend a variety of colours for more realism. Then they coloured the border.
For the final touch, students outlined the border shapes with a thick black outline.
Just FYI, you will not have any black oil pastels left after this project!
(I always try and buy extra separately)
Grade 7 results: Ta da!
Bulletin board display: