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Teaching with African Art

November 2, 2010

Prior to becoming the Coordinator of Museum Visits at the DMA, I served as a McDermott Curatorial Intern working with our curator of African art, Dr. Roslyn A. Walker.  During my year with Roz, I learned not only about the arts of Africa, but I also grew to love the DMA’s collection.  We have a fantastic collection of African art at the Museum, and I enjoy sharing it with our docents, teachers, and especially with students.

A few weeks ago, I led a docent training session entitled Art and Death in Africa.  A majority of African art deals with the cycle of life, so birth, initiation, and death are constantly referenced in our collection.  I felt that death was an especially interesting theme to investigate since it ties in so nicely to one of our current special exhibitions The Mourners: Medieval Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy.  Check out last Friday’s photo post for some of my favorite works from the collection relating to art and death in Africa.

Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria at the MFA, Houston

In September, I was invited to lead a Teacher Workshop at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston related to the exhibition Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria.  The works of art in the exhibition date from the 9th to the 15th century, and many of them have never traveled outside of Nigeria.  It was a special treat to see them, let alone to teach with them!  We spent time in the exhibition and also in the MFAH’s African galleries exploring the themes of kingship and belief.  At the end of the day, teachers created concrete poems inspired by a work of art in the Ife exhibition.  I was impressed with the teachers’ finished products, which were created on paper that they had embellished with a watercolor wash. 

A concrete poem created by one of the teachers

Later this month, I will be presenting Themes for Teaching with African Art at the Texas Art Education Association conference in Austin.  Using works of art from the DMA collection, I will share themes, questions, and experiences that can help students make connections between African art and traditions and their lives today.  If you’re attending TAEA this year and want to learn more about teaching with African art in your classroom, plan to attend my session at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, November 12th.  I hope to see you there!

Shannon Karol
Coordinator of Museum Visits

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