Lesson Title: Sacred Space: Religion
and Society in the Islamic World, How was Islam absorbed and adapted in
14th – 16th century West African kingdoms?
Name: Cynthia Ann Magruder and Paula Russo
Discipline: History and Visual Arts, respectively
School: Mercy High School, Baltimore, MD
Grade Level/Content Focus: Ninth Grade/World Cultures,
Time Required for Lesson: One 75-minute class period
The students will be able to:
- identify and describe seven basic elements that occur in any mosque.
- describe the geography of West Africa.
- predict and describe how geography and available resources shape
architecture in the region.
- approach an understanding of the core beliefs of Islam and the interaction
between regional cultures and the universal culture of the Islamic faith.
- understand that local and regional culture shapes the arts of a universal
|| Mansa Musa
|| Abu Ishaq as-Sahil
- Bloom, Jonathan. Islamic Arts. London: Phaidon Press, 1997.
- Clévenot, Dominique. Splendors of Islam: Architecture,
Decoration, and Design. New York: Vendome Press, 2000.
- Diouf, Sylviane. Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved
in the Americas. New York: New York University Press, 1998.
- Lunde, Paul. Islam. London: D.K. Publishers, 2002.
- Morris, James. Butabu: Adobe Architecture of West Africa.
New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004.
- Necipoglu, Gülru. Architecture, Ceremonial, and Power:
the Topkapi Palace in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries.
Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1991.
- Prussin, Labelle. Hatumere: Islamic Design in West Africa.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.
-- digital projector
-- handouts with model Kufic inscriptions
-- an assignment sheet that explains the specific requirements
of the oral presentation and poster or PowerPoint presentation
|-- plain white and tracing paper for sketch
-- colored pencils
-- poster-making materials and/or PowerPoint presentation
This lesson forms part of a larger unit on Islam and builds upon the
themes of human-environment interaction and cultural diffusion. These
themes are introduced at the start of the course. We continue to explore
and elaborate these themes through the remainder of the year in other
historical and cultural contexts.
Before they start this lesson, students will have already learned the
geography of Africa and the history of the growth and spread of Islam
in Africa between the 8th and 16th centuries. They also will have studied
the Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali and Songhay, as well as the Sundiata Epic
and Mansa Musa.
This lesson builds upon a unit on Islamic Architecture (see 2005 lesson
plan at http://www.crbs.umd.edu/crossingborders/lessonplans/html/2005/magruder-russo.html),
which asks students to identify seven basic elements of mosque architecture,
and by doing so, to contextualize their understanding of Islam by integrating
the study of the central tenets of the faith with the role that Islam
plays in society.
In this lesson, students apply their knowledge of Islam and Islamic
architecture to an examination of the specific architectural styles
of West African mosques. Students will note that the elements of the
mosque are created with local materials, and decorated in a style that
is strongly influenced by pre Islamic West African culture. Because
West African mosques are not extensively decorated, students will examine
other structures and several objects to explore the ways in which Islamic
and African art were synthesized in a variety of media.
In order to integrate the art of West Africa into the larger unit
on Afro-Eurasia, students will create a decorative panel similar to
those extant in areas of West Africa, which were influenced by Kufic
Qur'anic inscriptions, magic squares and graphemes of North Africa.
At the conclusion of the larger unit, each student will be asked to
research a specific mosque and present the seven thematic elements of
the mosque as the basis for her own oral presentation to the class.
Some students may choose to study and present a mosque from West Africa
- Review the physical geography of Africa
- Ask students to identify what materials would be available to builders
in the region.
- Ask students to guess what buildings in the regions might look like,
and why they might be designed in that way.
- Ask students to draw a sketch of a building that they think would
be appropriate for a certain area in West Africa
- Present a brief version of the '05 PowerPoint demonstration which
reviews the seven elements of a mosque: dome, minaret, minbar, mihrab,
courtyard, sabil, and decorative elements.
- Present "Islamic Architecture in Africa" PowerPoint, which
- elements of North African mosque design and decoration
- Kufic inscriptions, magic squares and graphemes
- West African design motifs, both Islamic and non-Islamic
- Various West African structures, sacred and secular
- Selected West African mosques
- Ask students to identify the basic elements of the mosques shown.
- Ask students to identify design and decorative influences native
to West Africa in the structures.
- Tell students they will create a decorative panel similar to those
found in Niger mosques.
- Distribute worksheets with Kufic Inscriptions, magic squares, and
- Distribute tracing paper and colored pencils.
- Instruct students to create and sketch their own designs based on
the examples on the worksheets.
- Students will create a three dimensional or bas relief decorative
panel using media of their own choice. Students will be encouraged to
use materials similar to those available in the region.
- Students will present their panels to the class and explain how their
design relates to both Islamic and regional artistic styles, as well
as to African culture and geography.
At the end of the larger unit, students will present the results of
their mosque research as described in the '05 lesson. Because each presentation
includes discussion of a decorative element, teachers will be able to
assess the degree to which they understood how cultures absorb and adapt
to new cultural and religious influences.
Have students make historical maps of the Islamic World. Possible map
- Trans Saharan Trade Routes, 700 – 1500
- Ibn Batuta's Travels in Africa (with descriptions of his observations)
- Mansa Musa's Pilgrimage to Mecca
- City of Timbuktu
- Physical Geography of West Africa