Monday, June 12, 2017

Arts Around the World: Venda Inspired Pottery and Rock Painting from South Africa

The last country we learned about this year, as part of our Arts Around the World curriculum, was South Africa. We began by learning that the country is located in the southern part of Africa and that many different peoples make up South Africa, each with their own language and history. The country has 11 official languages. This colorful mix of cultures gives South Africa its nickname "rainbow nation.”
For our first project, we looked at examples of pottery made by the Venda tribe. We noticed that the clay is a reddish color and there were many different shapes and sizes of pottery. We discussed how different size pots were for different purposes, such as carrying water or storing food. Students also noticed that the designs on the pottery were mainly red and silver in color and involved geometric shapes and repeating lines and patterns.
For our pinch pots, students got terra cotta clay which is a similar color to the red clay we saw in the Venda pottery examples. Students formed a ball with the clay and pushed their thumbs in the middle of the clay ball. Then they pinched around in a circle to create a pot or bowl shape, creating the walls of the pot and flattening and smoothing the inside.
After shaping their pinch pot, students used tools to draw lines and shapes into their pinch pot. We let them dry for a week and then they were fired in the kiln. After being fired once, students got to glaze their pinch pots. 
Even though the Venda primarily use red oxide and graphite (which created the silver color) to decorate their pots, students selected from several different colors to glaze their pottery. 
After glazing, the pinch pots were fired again and students shared their finished pottery with each other through a gallery walk. Below are some examples of our pinch pots, inspired by Venda pottery from South Africa:
Muntaha, 2nd Grade (Pearse)
Ana, 2nd Grade (Pearse)
Isabelle, 2nd Grade (Hinds)
Ella, 2nd Grade (Hinds)
Perin, 2nd Grade (O'Connor)
Sofia, 2nd Grade (O'Connor)
Isabel, 2nd Grade (McCarthy)
Dylan, 2nd Grade (McCarthy)
We also learned about rock paintings made by the San Bushmen, Africa's oldest hunter gatherers. The San Bushmen lived in the Drakensberg mountains of South Africa about 4,000 years ago. During that time they created art on the walls of caves and rock shelters.
We noticed that the art features animals and people, although the people are not represented with a lot of detail. Some students connected this to Egyptian hieroglyphics they had learned about in Social Studies and the idea of symbols. The people are often shown running or hunting, since this was a big part of their lives. We noticed that they used very natural colors, like brown, red and black, since they probably had to use natural materials to make these artworks. We also found it fascinating that 4,000 years ago, people were making art!
We made our own interpretation by crumpling a piece of brown paper to give it a rock-like texture and using charcoal and chalk pastel to create our drawings. We experimented with blending and smudging the materials.

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