Africa Encounters: Prompts for Extended Thinking

Africa Encounters: Prompts for Extended Thinking

Use these prompts after your Evans Distance Learning session or museum visit to activate creative, critical, and reflective thinking.

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
African Art
Activity Type:
Distance Learning

Africa Encounters: Prompts for Extended Thinking

Creative Thinking

Using our imaginations when looking at art can activate prior knowledge and spark curiosity.

During your Evans Distance Learning visit, students looked at African art that evidenced the legacy of cultural encounters through imperialism and colonialism on the continent.  Ask them to recall their visit and try this activity.

One of the easiest ways to begin interpreting a work of art is to imagine you are the artist.

Choose a work of art from the group below.  As the artist of the work, HOW did you make it? Consider:

  • The form, textures, and colors used.
  • The imagery and patterns you can see.
  • The materials and tools the artist might have needed.
  • The decisions the artist made. Was there a plan?
  • What the artist might have been thinking about: Who might have been the audience for this work?  Does it seem to have a purpose (political, spiritual, or practical)? What makes you think so?

Share your ideas with a partner and the class.

Now imagine you could visit with this artist for an interview and the chance to share with the artist your ideas about the work.  What questions would you ask?  What insights would you share?


Critical Thinking

Looking closely at art can help us uncover layers of complexity not apparent at first glance. During your Evans DLP visit, students explored artworks to interpret and become curious about the art of one or more African cultures. Ask students to try this approach with two or three other works of art (choose from below).  Use the Looking to Learn: What Makes You Say That? strategy to frame student inquiry.  

After using the strategy, ask students to compare their ideas with the information provided on the object pages.

Finally, ask students to look at the art with new eyes and complete the following statements about the objects they explored:

I used to think…

Now I think…

Reflective Thinking

Thinking about our experience with art can help connect us to people and ideas across time and place.

Use these prompts to reflect on your Evans Distance Learning session.

  • Having spent time with African Art at VMFA, what more do you know about the continent of Africa? How do you imagine the lives of the artists and the people for whom they created these objects were similar to or different from your own?
  • What did the art NOT answer for you? What are you curious about now that you have seen art from Africa during the late 19th and early 20th centuries? Name three things that you wish you knew more about and why. Visit your school library to research the answers to your questions.
  • Compare the art in your life (home, school, place of worship) to the African art you explored. Consider materials used, presentation, audience, intended use, value, etc.