Art Classes: Level III

Level III-Art Lesson 7: The Woodcarving from Kenya

Learn to draw an African silhouette, and discover some gorgeous African fabric patterns

The lesson is suitable for students in grade 5 through adult.


Art Lesson Description:

Some years ago, my sixth grade students wrote letters to a sailor in the US Merchant Marine who was sailing from the United States to the east coast of Africa.  We had a rich exchange of both letters and gifts, and one of the gifts the sailor sent to the class was the woodcarving that forms the center of this lesson. 

Most of our lessons are built around only one central image, but this lesson combines three: the woodcarving, a dramatic African sunset, and the gorgeous patterns of African fabrics.   The result is a project that steps outside the bounds of realism; while the drawing of the statue is realistic, the “sky” behind it borrows its images from African fabrics.  At the end of the lesson we suggest outlining the silhouette with a paint pen. 

The lesson introduces the student to the idea of using “head lengths” as a measurement to keep the human form in proportion.  Since the woodcarving is quite easy to draw, and since there is plenty of room for student interpretation, you will find your finished project most satisfying!

This lesson includes both POWERPOINT and VIDEO versions of the lesson plus 2 downloadable printouts: a warmup and a drawing of the wood carving.


List of Supplies for Each Art Student:


Suggestions for Cross-Curricular Connections:

Social Studies:

  • Use the lesson as an introduction to the history of Kenya.
  • Adults will enjoy the movie, "The First Grader" (#ad) from National Geographic (PG-13.) which tells the story of one man's efforts to get an education following British colonial rule in Kenya.
  • Learn interesting facts about Kenya at these sites.
  • Learn what ethnic groups live in Kenya.
  • Read Discover Kenya (#ad)by Chris Ward.
  • Read A Look at Kenya (#ad) by Helen Frost.
  • Learn about African fabric patterns at this website or search the internet with the words, African print fabrics or African fabric patterns.

Cooking: use links to these recipes to make a Kenyan meal.

Writing: plan a trip to Kenya, using information from the sites below. Write a description of the proposed trip that will make your "customers" want to go on the tour.


  • African sunsets are especially red. Learn why sunsets turn red.
  • Learn about the Mpingo tree, whose wood is used to make carvings like the one in this lesson.


Dance: Watch Maasai dancers from Kenya here or here


Approximate Time Needed to Complete the Art Class:

  • Introduction through guided drawing: 25 minutes
  • Finishing the drawing: 50 minutes
  • Total time: 75 minutes


Original Image
Original Image
How to Draw
How to Draw
A Finished Art Lesson
A Finished Art Lesson

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