Teaching Ideas

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • How does this cross differ from other crosses you have seen? How is it similar?

  • Why are symbols and icons important for representing cultural beliefs about religion, politics, and other ideas? What is their purpose and how are they be used?

  • What adjectives would you use to describe the look of this object?

  • Imagine a ritual procession in Ethiopia led by a person carrying this cross on a tall pole. What would you see and hear? How might it feel to participate in the ceremony?

Making Connections

For Students K-12

  • Research the history of Christianity in Africa and create a map that shows the dates and locations of its spread. Though the emergence of Christianity in Ethiopia began locally with the establishment of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, in much of Africa it was spread from a colonizing power through coercion or force. What ethical boundaries should guide the spread of a religion? Expand your research to include the study of other religions expanding in history.

  • Consider the various symbols and instruments used in Christianity and other religions. Make a list and discuss the significance and ceremonial functions of each.

  • The poem “White Man's Burden” written in 1899 by Rudyard Kipling (https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/mod/Kipling.asp) criticizes the missionary justifications for colonialism. Research the history of Christianity in Africa, read the poem, and write an essay which compares and contrasts Kipling's vision of religious colonialism with historical accounts.

  • Search for images of religious symbols. Extend your search of images to include works of art in which these symbols appear. Consider the Christian cross, the Star of David, Rosary beads, and the eight Buddhist symbols. As you search for images, research the origins of these symbols. Create a visual presentation and comparison of these symbols, their origins, and meanings.

  • In groups, research a particular religious or sacred structure from the following list. Create a presentation with images that shows how artistic elements such as painting, sculpture, inlay, etc. were used to decorate the space. Discuss the effect of these decorations. Potential structures: The Hanging Church (Cairo), Notre Dame Cathedral (Paris), Hagia Sophia (Istanbul), Temple of Heaven (Beijing), Angkor Wat (Angkor), Dome of the Rock (Jerusalem).

  • Imagine a ritual procession in Ethiopia led by a person carrying this cross on a tall pole. What would you see and hear? How might it feel to participate in the ceremony? Write a story about what you imagine.

  • Edward Said's criticism is often focused on describing the ways in which popular European novels which have no overt connection with colonialism paint scenarios which are directly reliant upon the spoils of colonialism (for instance, Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, in which one of the characters earns his fortune from a plantation in Antigua). Have your students study a book written during a European country's colonial period and write an essay describing the ways in which its plot, characters, or setting are influenced by its colonial heritage.