Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ndebele Tribe; Linga Koba Dolls

The people of the Ndebele tribe live in Southern Africa.

The Ndebele tribe is most well-known for their painted homes, beaded dolls, and their beautiful use of color in both.  To begin, my students learned about the Ndebele's traditional painted homes.

Students first learned the real reasons why the Ndebele people paint their homes.  It's natural to see the painted homes for their visual aesthetic; the symbols and complex expressionistic designs with bold, beautiful coloring are striking against the stark surroundings of South Africa, but the exterior and interior walls of each home are painted to also relay secret messages that can only be distinguished by other Ndebele people.  The painted symbols and expressions communicate personal prayers, self-identification, values, emotions, and marriage.  The women of the Ndebele are accountable for carrying on the tradition of painting the homes; how well the home is painted and kept up is representative of how good a wife and mother the female is.

To paint the homes, women first begin with whitewashing the walls.  Next, they apply a thick black outline of their distinctive design.  After the outline is dry, five main colors are used: red, yellow (gold), blue, green, and pink.  The secret messages are sent through the color combinations applied to the walls.  Over time, the traditional techniques of painting has adapted and modernized.  In present day, the women of the Ndeblele use bundled twigs with feathers as brushes to apply the paint, rather then using their fingers as in the past. Advancements in the tools used have allowed the patterns and designs to grow in size and in complexity, making the homes today even more remarkable and impacting.

After learning about the painted homes of the Ndebele people, my students could not wait to learn about their dolls the following week.  They were surprised to hear that the Linga Koba dolls hold significant ritual importance in the lives of the Ndebele people and are not used for amusement purposes of a child.  The dolls are handmade with beads, fiber, and thread.  It takes countless hours to construct each doll and they are cherished being passed on from generation to generation.  During courtship, a suitor places a doll outside a young woman’s hut, representing his intention to propose marriage.  While preparing for the marriage the women then cares for the doll, which one day will be passed on to her own daughter.

My students were touched by the values and traditions they learned the Ndebele people preserve.  They were impressed by the strong community bond of the Ndebele people and the amount of time and importance they place on carrying on traditions of their ancestors to each generation.  I asked at this point if anyone had specific traditions that had been passed on in their own family.  Many sadly did not have any personal examples.  With how many of my students were unable to share a specific example we briefly discussed common traditions in America.  Students mentioned passing on specific pieces of jewelry and clothing, along with figurines and special collections.  After writing their ideas down in a “Thinking Map” I had the students write a sentence on one tradition they thought they would enjoy passing on to family in their future. 

With limited resources creating actual dolls was not practical this year, but the students drew their own doll with bold black outlining, bright colors, and string and beads for hair.

It was a very memorable, successful, engaging lesson that I will definitely be repeating in the years to come.  My hope next year is to have the opportunity to create actual dolls with my students that they could keep or pass on to someone significant in their lives. 

(Citation: I've seen variations of this lesson done on many art blogs, all amazing)


1 comment:

  1. Hello , I like your blog. It´s excellet!
    I live in Buenos Aires and I´m a teacher of Jewerly.
    I travel in dicember 2012 to Sudafrica and I like the Ndebele tecnics. I want to visit the Ndebele Fundation.
    I ask you all information abaut this.
    Thanks!! Sorry for my English.
    Patricia Gerard