Grade Levels: 5 - 8
- Students will create a Senufo Painting
- Practice paper
- 12" x 18" white drawing paper or
- 12" x 18" off-white burlap
- Medium and wide black markers
Fakaha, Ivory Coast
Fakaha is a small village in the country of Ivory Coast, West Africa . The Senufo are a tribe of people who live in Fakaha. Senufo paintings are stylized drawings of masked figures and animals done by the men who live in Fakaha. The paintings are drawn and painted on pieces of white, loosely woven, cotton fabric. First, the Senufo draw the figures freehand with a yellowish-green dye made from the leaves of the falma bush. Then a second coat of black paint is drawn on top of the falma dye. This paint is made from a sludgy mud dug from the roots of trees in swampy areas.
Traditional Senufo paintings were made into dance or hunting clothes. The Senufo believe the drawings have special mystical powers that protect and bring the hunter good luck. Today this cloth is seldom made into hunting clothes. Instead, the paintings are sold to tourists and specialty shops. Many have become ornamental fabrics for wall hangings, pillows, table cloths, or other decorative items.
Both animal and masked figure drawings are used on Senufo paintings. The animals include birds, snakes, fish, crocodiles, and turtles. The masked dancer figures are often shown from the side or front view. Sometimes they are shown with a front-view body and a side-view head. Geometric designs such as circles, stripes, and zigzags embellish the drawings.
- If you have a budget problem, the paintings can be done on white drawing paper.
- For a more authentic version, substitute burlap for the coarsely woven Senufo fabrics.
- When working with burlap, a considerable amount of preparation time is needed to cut burlap pieces.
- Figure the number of students participating in the project and decide sizes according to what your budget can handle.
- Try to obtain a real Senufo painting to show students. Specialty shops or museum stores often sell them. Perhaps you can find a shop that would be willing to loan one.
- Check the library for reference material on African decorated fabrics.
- Develop a Senufo-style painting of your own to share with students.
- For animal drawings, use National Geographic or Wildlife magazines that have quality photographs for reference material.
- Instruct the class to read the background information listed above. They may also visit related websites for more information.
- Have students create one or two sketches of square-shaped masked figures using side, front, or a combination of side and front views. Or have them develop one or two animal sketches of snakes, crocodiles, birds, or fishes. Perhaps they could stylize drawings of their favorite animal or pet.
- Students decorate the figures Senufo-style with circle, line, or triangle designs. Include some symbols that might represent good fortune or protection.
- Students pick two, three, or four of the best sketches.
- Students draw them on a piece of white drawing paper or burlap fabric.Burlap will fray easily, so plan to set aside a portion of time for students to trim pieces. Then glue corners to prevent fraying.
- Add line, dot, and triangle designs to the drawings.
- Finished pieces are ready for display.
- Consult the social studies department; a unit on Africa would be enhanced
by the presence of Senufo-style paintings.
Excerpt from Multicultural Art Activities Kit.
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