Lesson One involves students in the study of the history and cultural beliefs that shaped and influenced African art, focusing on the three pieces mentioned in the introduction. Besides providing appropriate background, the activity stimulates the thought process and allows students to focus on these objects aesthetically, using the methodology of object analysis.
In this methodology, objects are analyzed in three stages. Description, the recording of internal evidence of the object. Deduction which consists of perceiver interaction with the object and speculation, which takes place in the mind of the investigator. Description begins with substantial analysis, i.e. the physical dimensions of the object, the articulation, and materials. To determine the dimensions, the object must be measured and possibly weighed. Next is the material description. The material used determines what qualities the student will examine. For example, with wood objects, students would look at the distribution of patterns, joints, and glue. The next step in description analysis is to examine the content, which may include designs, inscriptions, scarification embossments, engravings, carvings, drawings, adornments, or etchings. Finally, the object’s form and configuration is studied. This stage helps to describe the two dimensional organizations, including lines, areas, surfaces, color, light and texture.
Deduction is the second stage of analysis. The perceiver can either handle, lift, use, or otherwise experiment physically with the object. The criteria for deductions are drawn from description analysis and not from the perceiver’s prior knowledge. In Deduction, the first stage is the sensory experience of the object. One may touch the object to feel its texture and weight. The second stage is the intellectual engagement or apprehension of what the object does, or how it does it. Finally, the last stage is the viewer’s emotional response to the object. This stage can trigger different responses to the object, such as joy, fright, awe, or curiosity.
Speculation is the final stage of analysis. There are two steps in the speculation process. The first step is to review the information in the Descriptive and Deductive stages and formulate hypotheses. This process provides the time to sum up the objects internal evidence. The second stage is the development of a program that validates the investigation of questions posed by the material evidence. (Prown, Jules D., “Mind in Matter. An Introduction to material Culture Theory and Method,” Winterhur Portfolio Vol. 17, No. 1 Spring 1982). Finally, this lesson also addresses the object proportion, textures, and surfaces in relation to aesthetics, and lends opportunity for ongoing classroom discussions.
Lesson two focuses on the comparison of the sculptures aesthetically. Students will be engaging in various drawing assignments that will allow their own interpretation of their perceptions and focus on their particular style of drawing and design.
In lesson three, the activities ask students to differentiate between a practical experience and aesthetic experience. The objectives and strategies for this unit are threefold. First, students will take numerous class trips to the Yale Art Gallery. During their visit, students will study and observe the African art collection, utilizing the methodologies of Description, Deduction and Speculation described in Lesson Two.