"A Faithful Attempt" is designed to showcase a variety of K-12 art lessons, the work of my art students, as well as other art-related topics. Projects shown are my take on other art teacher's lessons, lessons found in books or else designed by myself.
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LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT I acknowledge, with deep respect, that I am gathered on Treaty 7 territory. I acknowledge the many First Nations, Métis and Inuit whose footsteps have marked these lands for generations. I respect the histories, languages and cultures all the Indigenous peoples of Canada, whose presence continues to enrich our community.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ndebele African Animal Drawings

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:


luisa leccisotti said...

Lovely work!!!

Tisha Smith said...

Love these w/ the colorful borders! You asked about where I find smooth rocks.....here's what I posted.

Ahhhh, yes the rocks. Large, smooth rocks are hard to come by and they cost a lot of money if I were to buy them at a landscaping supply.
These are from a beach, that has literally thousands of them, in San Diego. My inlaws live there and they graciously collected them and lugged them to my house on Thanksgiving. (Last year was Thanksgiving at their house so I lugged them home & my suitcase weighed A LOT!) Good luck finding some where you live:)

Mary said...

What beauties these all are! I love the care that each student put into creating their decorative border. And I love seeing all the different animals. Outstanding work!

Rina k6art.com said...

The borders are gorgeous! You could do a lesson plan just on the geometric patterns.

I LOVE the crocodile and the antelope especially - they really fill the space.

Thanks for posting.


pam said...

Thank you for the links to history and to the villages. I see so many similarities in this art expression to those of Southwestern USA Indian cultures. I mean - really really similar geometric patterns and design.

Am going to do more research.

Miss said...

Thanks everyone!

Pam, are you referring to Navajo designs? If so, yes, they are also very geometric in design- I never saw the connection before!

Denim Journal, Scarlet Lens said...

So Beautiful all of them!
I am your new follower!

Chesterbrook Academy Elementary said...

What a fantastic project.
Your students did an amazing job.
The colors, the patterns the lines are awesome.

Your bulletin board looks amazing.

Miss said...

Thanks so much Madeleine and Chesterbrook!

Louise Morgan said...

Hi! I just recently discovered your blog. I love it! I just wanted to let you know that I have nominated you for the Top 10 Blog Award. Stop by my blog to check it out.

Miss said...

Frugalteacher- thanks so much!

Unknown said...

Hi, the student work here is wonderful and your travels are impressive! I'm wondering if you talk about the combination of traditional Ndebele design with a western idea of animal representation with the students? How far do you go into the meaning of the symbols and the history of the people? ...Thanks!

Miss said...

Hi Jenny- thanks for your comment. I don't talk about the combo of Ndebele design and western animal depictions- have never thought of that actually! I do, though, go quite a bit into the history of the Ndebele people through photos/slideshows and Youtube videos. I think it's such a unique art form.

Brian said...

I grew up in the eastern highveld region of South Africa during the 1970s, and I well remember those Ndebele designs - you could see them painted on houses all along the road sides.

Alas, no more. It seems it's a lost art.

Miss said...

Brian- what an amazing sight to see. Yes, the artist I spoke to said none of the young people want to learn the art anymore and prefer to move to the city to find better paying jobs.

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