Teaching Ideas

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • How are the figures positioned in this object? What might this indicate about their role and the purpose of this object?
  • A number of different geometric patterns appear in this sculpture. How do these patterns contribute to the overall composition? How might looking at this sculpture in person be different from looking at a drawing or other two-dimensional representation of it?
  • How do you think this sculpture was created? Do you think it is carved from a single piece of wood or is made by assembling several carved pieces? This sculpture is carved from a single large piece of wood, such as a tree trunk. Even the head in the center of the sculpture which looks free to roll about, is part of this single carved piece.
  • The relationship between guest and host in the Yoruba culture is strictly defined by ritual and tradition. Discuss the relationship between guest and host in your homes or in the homes of your friends. How do you treat your guests differently than you treat your family members? What does this say about your family?
  • The female figures on this olumeye are idealized images of women for the Yoruba people. What are male and female standards of beauty in our society? Where do they come from and why are they important? How do they compare to the Yoruba standards of beauty depicted on this olumeye?
  • Much European or American art is categorized, in catalogues and art history texts, by its time period or artist while African art is frequently categorized by its region of origin or use. Why is this? Can these categories affect the way we think about art?

Making Connections

For Students K-12

  • This olumeye is part of a ritual which takes place between guests and hosts in the Yoruba culture. Find texts which describe the proper hospitality procedure in several different cultures. (The Odyssey, for example, describes this relationship in ancient Greece, but even more contemporary texts, like Emily Post’s Etiquette, might offer another perspective.) Write an essay comparing and contrasting the defined roles of guest and host in several different cultures.
  • Consider how you welcome guests in your own home and create a work of art which is meant to facilitate the welcoming of guests into your home.