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This lesson plan is

compatible with multiple

learning styles!!

This lesson plan is all about the beauty

creativity vocabulary
found in African pottery.
words, multimedia
and stunning
and variety
hands-of clay art
from Kemet to the Congo!

on project ideas.
By Mwalimu Ameera

Grades 3-4

Genius creations in
African Clay Art


African Ingenuity: Genius creations in

African Pottery and Sculpture
By Mwalimu Ameera Ashshakir

In 2007, Swiss archaeologists discovered pieces of the oldest pottery found so far
in Africa in Central Mali, dating back to at least 9,500 BC. If we were using
pottery in 9500 BC, then surely we had mastered the art of creating it decades
before. This cannot be proven because pottery that old would have crumbled back
into earth by now! One thing that we know for sure is that pottery, in Africa, had a
special place in our homes, and on our alters all throughout the continent.
In most regions of Africa, pottery was made by women, however man have been a
big pat of the creative process as well, sometimes in the creation of pottery and
sculpture, and sometimes in the working of kilns to cure clay art. Clay was worked
on entirely by hand and shaped and fashioned into the desired style. In other cases,
the women and men would pour the clay into a mold made of pottery, wood or a
calabash. Clay pots were and still are being used to cook food, store water and for
various other food preparation functions.
After drying the clay, the pots are put in a pile and covered with wood, bark or
dried cow dung and baked outdoors in an open fire. However in Nigeria and Mali,
real kilns are used to bake the pots. After baking, the pots are then decorated. The
materials that they used to decorate depended on the region. Some African
communities used different colors of clay to decorate pots, and others left their pots
plain. In some areas of Africa, plant dyes were used for coloring and were
randomly splashed on after the firing process. This was common among the
Congolese people in what is now Zaire. In other regions like Kemet and Nubia,
they had human or animal figures added to them to give them character or to serve
as handles or pouring beaks. The Mangbetu people of Zaire were masters at mixing
designs with round-shaped pottery to produce beautiful pieces of clay work.

Other materials were also added to the pots for functionality or ornamental
purposes. A good example of this were the basketwork covers fitted over the pots,
making them more functional and also more elegant. Another amazing creation
found in Africa are our sculptures, coming in all shapes, sizes, and functions,
African sculpture is a wonder of the world. As you can imagine, there are

thousands of types of pottery that can be found in Africa, and each one has been
shown love and care from our ancestors.

Vocabulary words

Learning objectives:
Students will learn about 4 different regions of Africa that mastered pottery
Students will learn how to identify African clay art.
Students will learn the vocabulary words associated with this lesson.
Students will learn how to make clay for pottery.
Students will learn how to decorate pots according to specific regions in Africa.

Students will learn the spiritual significance of certain types of clay art.

Lesson one

African art is functional, it is not very often that you find a beautiful piece with no other purpose
than to adorn the home. Most clay pieces found in Africa had a spiritual significance. Explain to
your students the rich stories behind Kemetian clay art, and go in depth about the materials, and
colors used to decorate the pots. Show students different Kemetic deities and explain to them
how Kemetic art can represent legends, deities, and royalty.
Assignment: In class, create a batch of oven bake clay using the recipe provided, have
students imitate one of their favorite pieces of Kemetian pottery representing a deity that is
important to each student. Let students

Lesson two

Explain the many purposes of clay art in Africa, talk to your students about the ways that Art
influences culture. How did Art play a role in the African Diaspora as we began to learn more
about our past history? Compare the Harlem Renaissance artists like Augusta Savage, Aaron
Douglass, and Lois Mailou Jones, with African sculpture from the Youruba people. Explain how
all African Art, past or present, tells a story. Ask students how they can use sculptures to tell a
Assignment: Create a batch of oven bake clay, and use it to create a piece of clay sculpture
that tells a story about who you are as a person. What is the story of your ancestry? What
makes you happy? Include aspects of your life, and your ancestors lives in your sculpture.

Lesson Three

Show students examples of Pottery and sculpture from the Bambara people of Mali. Bambara
people live in the central valley of the Niger River. Bambara homes are characteristically bigger
than homes of most other West African groups because families are so valued, and they wish to
stay together as much as possible. Some of the dwellings hold as many as 60 or more people
from one family. The Bambara trust that the ancestral spirits may take on the forms of animals or
even vegetables. In extraordinary ceremonies, the spirits are worshipped and presented with
offerings of flour, sculptures, and water. The clay art of the Bambara people is especially
amazing because it represents every part of their complex culture.
Assignment: Create an example of a Bambara House, making a wooden stick frame and
filling it with clay. Create the family who lives inside, using your imagination to decorate,
and give the family names. Be creative!

Lesson Four

Talk about the Royal Art of Benin and the way that it captured the life, and actions of the Oba
(King). The royal arts of the Benin Kingdom of south-central Nigeria show us how highly
regarded the Oba was, and how he was said to have a divine nature. Benin sculpture captured the
historical events happening in the Kingdom, and the life of the Oba. The Obas interactions with
the supernatural and his ancestors, are important to keeping his kingdom vital.
Assignment: Create a story about the life of a Queen Mother, or an Oba in Benin. Research
3 facts about the life of that person and imagine the rest of the story. Be creative in weaving
together the details and present an amazing story to the class.

Lesson Five

Use this last lesson to review what students have learned so far and their assignments. Watch the
provided film on African techniques for creating art with wood, metal, clay and cloth. Show
students how film relates to the projects that they have been doing with this lesson plan. Start to
organize information and notes from each prior lesson, a use the provided template to create a
word map with 5-15 words each student.
Assignment: Review information from previous lessons, and use the provided template to
create a lap book. Include pictures of your own projects, and your own thoughts in the
lapbook to make it more unique. Share lapbooks as a presentation to your class.

Related Links for this lesson are not the intellectual or copyright property of Ameera
Ashshakir, they are simply here to make sure that your students have the best possible
learning experience by using multimedia tools.

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