To help celebrate Black History month, Maple Dene elementary students turned their attention towards the continent of Africa and its visual splendor as revealed in a large format book about the area during art with Miss Edith. Many were pleasantly surprised to realize that Egyptian art is an intrinsic part of Africa’s cultural heritage. Next, students focused on the traditional art of the Lega People of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They looked at actual photographic reference materials of small masks and animal figurines that were produced and used by members of the historic Bwami Society, a group that fostered ancestral cultural values among the Lega. Students then tried out soap carving. They used plastic knives and various tools to emulate favorite samples from the collection. Carving is a difficult art technique, requiring lots of mental gymnastics as well as hand control! Students worked hard to imagine what needed to be subtracted from their blocks of soap in order to replicate the particular three-dimensional object that they had chosen. While they were tackling these problems, they also learned a bit about the proverbs and symbolism related to these sculptures by listening to excerpts read aloud from the teachers’ guide, Art of the Lega; Meaning and Metaphor in Central Africa written by Lyn Avins and Betsy Quick, published by UCLA’s Fowler Museum of Cultural History. As you can see, the students produced some intriguing carvings!