Teaching Ideas

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • Identify primary and secondary colors on the beadwork cape. Next, look for shapes and patterns and describe what you see.

  • Is it unusual to see clothing in an art museum? Why or why not? Why might this cape belong on display in an art museum?

  • The beadwork on this cape indicates that it was made for a married woman to wear on ceremonial occasions. Are there examples of graphic symbols, patterns, or motifs on the clothes we wear which communicate something specific about us? List examples and discuss what suggest or communicate.

  • The Ndebele are a group of people in Southern Africa. How could clothing help the Ndebele to maintain a sense of group identity?

  • The clothing of Ndebele women changed to show their different roles in life. Does this happen in the United States? Explain your answer.

Making Connections

For Students K-12

  • Explore clothes-making traditions in two African cultures through a comparison of the Skirt with grey applique_ _(1984.162.McD), which comes from the Kuba peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and this cape. What similarities or differences do you see between the skirt and the cape?

  • Listen to this radio segment about the international clothing market. Then research your favorite article of clothing and write its narrative. Where did its materials come from? Where was it assembled? Consider the difference between a culture that primarily buys its clothes from the world market and one, like the Ndebele, which primarily makes its clothes.

  • Make a list of clothes and other adornments you have worn on ceremonial occasions. Choose one or two examples and research the history and significance of them.

  • In an essay, discuss the significance of patterns or graphics found on your favorite article of clothing. What about the graphic originally attracted you to the clothing? What does it suggest about you?

  • Look closely at each of the beadwork designs and consider what the designs have in common. Where do you see symmetry and asymmetry in the designs? Select a shape that you like and use a piece of graph paper to draw patterns with this shape. Create variation through the size and color of shapes. Practice symmetry and asymmetry in your designs.

  • The graphical style associated with this cape has become an important cultural tradition for the Ndebele people following a history of repression and displacement. Consider the making of art in relationship to hardship or challenging times. Research another work of art or artistic tradition that was conceived during such circumstances. To get started, you might consider work by Jacob Lawrence, such as The Visitors (1984.174), artworks created by political prisoners, artworks made during times of war (Mexican Revolution and Posada, World War I and the Dada movement, etc.), or artworks created by street artists.