African Themed Art Projects for Primary Grades

Written by elizabeth stover
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African Themed Art Projects for Primary Grades
African culture and geography provide the inspiration for these projects. (Africa image by Luka76 from

You can teach children in primary grades about other cultures through art. Art projects for primary grades should require skills and materials appropriate for students in kindergarten through second grades. Although some schools use the terms elementary and primary interchangeably, many categorise elementary school into primary and intermediate levels. Though African art projects for this age should involve easy skills, the projects can still result in an attractive product that helps students learn about African culture.

Kente Cloth Patterns

Use computer or print resources to show students examples of kente cloth, a traditional African textile. Cut heavy, white art paper into 24-inch by 5-inch strips. Divide each strip into rectangular sections by folding it across the width two or three times. Give each student a ruler and demonstrate how to use it to give each of the boxes created while folding the strip a line-design pattern. Depending on the age of your students, have them create two patterns that can be alternated and repeated along the strip. Have students go over the lines created using the ruler with black marker or crayon. Instruct the students to decide on three or four bright colours to use in colouring the designs. Tape the individual student strips together side by side to create a large, paper replica of a piece of kente cloth to display.

Milk Jug Masks

Simulate traditional African masks using recycled milk jugs and papier-mâché. Cut the milk jugs in half from top to bottom, leaving the handle in the middle of one section to become a snout or nose. Discard the half without the handle. Give students 2-inch by 5-inch newspaper strips and a shallow container of liquid starch. Have students dip the strips in the starch, and cover the jug in two layers of newspaper. Allow each layer to dry completely. Give students strips of brown tissue paper or thin, package-mailing paper and have them repeat the papier-mâché process with it so that the mask is brown and has the appearance of wood. Give students tempera or acrylic paints and paint brushes, and have them add exaggerated animal or human facial details.

Serengeti Mural

Roll out a large piece of white notice board paper on an uncarpeted floor or a large table. Provide students with pictures of the African Serengeti, pointing out its various land, sky, plant and animal details. Allow groups of students to paint a bright sky and tall grasses across the entire piece of paper. Once the sky and grasses dry, have students add silhouettes of a few sparse trees to the scene. Provide students with large, white paper and crayons or paints. Have them create typical Serengeti animals such as elephants, giraffes, zebras and lions to place on the painted mural background.

Tribal Drums

Locate large, empty oatmeal or coffee containers. Cut heavy brown paper to a size large enough to wrap around and cover the container completely. Have students draw line designs on the brown paper in bright colours. Cover the containers with the brown paper. Have two circular pieces of hide-like material per drum, large enough to cover and hang over about one inch on both ends of the containers. Punch holes along the edges of both pieces of the circles prior to giving them to students. Have students sit the container, open end up, on one of the circles, and lay the other circle over the open end of the container. Give each student a long piece of rope or twine. Have the students string the rope through first a hole of the top hide-like circle then a hole of the bottom hide-like circle, repeating the process, alternating between top and bottom, until they finish lacing the two circular pieces of hide together over the ends of the containers. Help students to tie a knot to secure the rope, and their drum is complete.

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