Traditional Tent Making and Design Principles

Setting up a tent for a funeral in Alexandria, Egypt (Photo Marika Snider 2010)

Lesson Summary

This lesson will introduce students to traditional tent making in Egypt. Students will learn how to analyze the principles of art and design found in Egyptian tent panels through diagramming. Students will compare tent making in Egypt with tents in other parts of the world.

Required Supplies / Preparation

All lesson necessary lesson material is included through links. Links to optional access to feature length film on Kanopy (often free through libraries) and book for purchase.

Activity 1: blank paper and colored pencils, crayons, or markers

Activity 2: Print off images from links, markers or colored pencils. Advanced students may prefer to use Photoshop or InDesign.

Questions: paper or word processor (MS Word, GoogleDocs)

Objectives

  1. Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
  2. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  3. Understand historical and cultural context for tent makers in Egypt.
  4. Compare how tent designs vary in differing parts of the world.
  5. Recognize the elements of design in tent textiles.
Color panels used on modern apartment balconies in Egypt (Photo Marika Snider 2007)

Resources

Select one of the following to learn about Tent Makers in Cairo:

  1. Narrated slide show (00:14:16) https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CkUGrawExdi6u1kRp5SVBR5gE6nGyZ8G/view
  2. Watch the film (01:38:29) https://www.kanopy.com/product/tentmakers-cairo-0 Many libraries offer free access to Kanopy.
  3. Read the book El Rashidi, Seif, and Sam Bowker. 2018. The tentmakers of Cairo: Egypt’s medieval and modern appliqué craft. https://www.amazon.com/Tentmakers-Cairo-Egypts-Medieval-Appliqu%C3%A9
Set set up on a small street in Alexandria, Egypt for a special event (Photo Marika Snider 2007)

Egypt is one of many cultures which make tents as an art form. Read one or more of the following articles about tent making in another part of the world. Describe how they are similar and different.

  1. Sustainability and Modern Gers in Ulaanbaatar https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/03/04/589271101/to-fight-pollution-hes-reinventing-the-mongolian-tent
  2. The Art of Tent Bands in Central Asia https://www.rferl.org/a/1075865.html#:~:text=Both%20are%20an%20integral%20part,arid%20steppes%20of%20Central%20Asia.
  3. Overview of Types of Tents Around the World https://kamui-outdoor.com/traditional-tents/
  4. Tibetan Nomadic Tents https://www.tibettravel.org/tibetan-people/tibetan-nomadic-tents.html
  5. Blackfoot tipis https://www.thevintagenews.com/2016/07/18/native-american-tipi-2/
  6. Nenet, Komi and Khanty Reindeer Skin Tents (00:25:04) WARNING – some content may not be suitable for all viewers – some scenes of processing reindeer carcasses https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xi80xrE3MkI
Traditional Bedouin Tents in Wadi Rum, Jordan (Photo Marika Snider 2014)

Activities

Select one or more of the following activities

  1. Drawing for younger students: draw and color your own tent panel design. Use one of the fabric designs in the slide show/film/book for inspiration. Fill the entire sheet of paper.
  2. Drawing and analysis for older students: select three or more tent panels and print off images of the patterns http://islamicartsmagazine.com/magazine/view/khayamiya_khedival_to_contemporary_the_tentmakers_of_cairo/.
    1. Examine the ways the patterns are similar and different.
    2. What colors do they use? Are they similar or contrasting? Are there many colors or only a few?
    3. Are they symmetrical? If so, are they symmetrical horizontally, vertically, diagonally, or all?
    4. What shapes are used?
    5. How does the design use lines?
    6. What is the scale of the elements? Large? Small? Some large elements with many smaller elements?
    7. Do the designs create a texture? If so, describe it.
    8. Is there hierarchy within the design? Is one element bigger, brighter, or given the most important position in the design?
    9. How is repetition used?
    10. Label the design elements on the print outs of the tent panel design. Elements of design an art may include: Line, Shape, Form, Color, Space, Texture, Value, Light, Shadow, Balance, Emphasis, Symmetry, Movement, Pattern, Repetition, Proportion, Rhythm, Variety, Unity. Not all elements will be found in every example.
Example of diagramming design elements in an Egyptian tent panel

Questions

  1. How do tent designs differ in different parts of the world?
  2. How do people decorate the insides of tents?
  3. Describe the part of the city where tent makers work in Cairo?
  4. What are some of the challenges tent makers face?
Reconstruction of traditional tent in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Photo Marika Snider 2010)

Public Art

I am a man, by Marcellous Lovelace, 2014, Memphis, TN (Photo Marika Snider 2020)

Have you ever wondered about art you see in your city such as sculptures or murals? Have you wondered why it’s there? Or how to describe it? This week’s lesson is an adaptation of the Association for Public Art’s lesson plans for public art in Philadelphia.

Annabelle the Praying Mantis, by Pat Belisle and Chris Saylor, Chadwick Arboretum, Columbus, Ohio (Photo Marika Snider 2019)
  1. Read and follow the lesson plan:

Lamp Post Bears, 1902 (foreground) and Soldiers and Sailors Monument by Bruno Schmitz, 1888-1901 (background), Indianapolis, IN (Photo Marika Snider 2018)

ADAPTATION

You can adapt the activity from the first lesson for your city by applying the same principles to your area.

2. Watch this PBS video about the elements of art:

https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/7a50f240-0d56-4ce6-a955-bc5accaf9879/elements-of-art/

3. Find public art in your city (either by visiting in person or use Google Maps and Google Street View). Use these websites to help you find public art in your area. Or search your for public art in your city.

https://www.publicartarchive.org/

https://indyarts.org/artists/artist-resources/item/public-art-commissions-where-to-find-them

4. Select one piece of public art.

5. Take a photograph or screen shot of the piece of art.

6. Find as many Elements of Art in your chosen piece of art. The elements are: Line, Shape, Form, Color, Space, Texture, Value, Light, Shadow

7. Create a diagram to show the elements of art. Use your photograph or screenshot. Draw lines or shade areas on the image and label as many Elements of Art as you can find.

Sellsville and the Blackberry Patch, 2015 by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson, Columbus Carnegie (Main) Library, Columbus Ohio (Photo Marika Snider 2018)

PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN

8. Next, learn about the Principles of Design through this PBS video:

https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/459077ac-6d7d-4eef-bd7e-e38d12e7ce97/principals-of-design/

9. Here’s a great reference sheet about the Principles of Design from the Getty Museum:

https://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/building_lessons/principles_design.pdf

10. Select a difference piece of public art.

11. Take photograph of screen shot of the piece of art.

12. Find as many Principles of Design as you can in this work of art. The principles are: Balance, emphasis, movement, pattern, repetition, proportion, rhythm, variety, unity

13. Label the image of the piece of art with as many Principles of Design as you can find.

3D Brick Mural, 2017, by Eric Rausch and Jenn Kiko, 2017 (Photo Marika Snider 2018)

For more information

Public art in your area: https://www.americansforthearts.org/by-topic/public-art

Public art in rural areas https://www.rural-design.org/webinars

Noteworthy public art in the US https://mymodernmet.com/public-art-in-the-us/

Ashville, NC Urban Art Trail https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?msa=0&mid=1LYYFBQxT1rndrlyJvBn21ukm4r0&ll=35.596144532487465%2C-82.55237050000001&z=17

San Jose, CA Public Art Collection https://www.sanjoseca.gov/your-government/departments/office-of-cultural-affairs/public-art

Lancaster, PA Public Art https://www.lancasterpublicart.com/public-art-in-lanc

Nebraska Public Art (Omaha, Lincoln, Interstate 80) https://www.artscouncil.nebraska.gov/opportunities/for-the-community/public-art.html

Denver, CO https://www.denver.org/things-to-do/denver-arts-culture/public-art/

Albuquerque, NM https://www.cabq.gov/culturalservices/public-art/public-art-in-albuquerque

Lubbock, TX https://ci.lubbock.tx.us/PublicArt

Columbus, Ohio https://citypulsecolumbus.com/columbus-public-art-top-10/

Memphis, TN https://wearememphis.com/culture/arts/best-places-see-public-art-memphis/

Yellow Springs, OH https://ysnews.com/news/2018/12/a-tour-of-yellow-springs-murals

Chicago, IL https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/dca/provdrs/public_art_program.html


Virtual Lesson Plan – Analyzing a Complex and Compelling Visual Image

From AramcoWorld https://www.aramcoworld.com/Resources/Classroom-Guides/November-2015/Classroom-Guide-ND15

Written by Julie Weiss and used with permission (link above or read below)

For students: We hope this guide will help sharpen your reading skills and deepen your understanding of this issue’s articles. 

For teachers: We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from AramcoWorld, by teachers at any level, whether working in a classroom or through home study. 

—the editors

As the Classroom Guide moves digital, we have adopted the format introduced in March/April 2015: Each lesson is based on one article. The lessons include an introduction, a statement of goals—what students should be able to do by the time they finish—and step-by-step instructions for the activities. Each lesson also includes a link to Common Core standards that the lesson meets. We hope this format will make it easier than ever to use AramcoWorld in your classroom. Let us know! Send me your comments

—Julie Weiss


Visual Analysis

FirstLook 

This is a new department in AramcoWorld, one that provides a rich opportunity to analyze a complex and compelling visual image. That’s what you’ll do in this lesson. When you have completed it, you will be able to:

  • describe the process you use to view a visual image
  • compare and contrast different images of the same subject matter
  • hypothesize about the decisions that the photographer made in taking and editing the photograph, why he might have made them, and how those decisions affect your experience as a viewer
  • present a persuasive argument about whether or not photographs are accurate representations of reality
  • use words to tell stories that a photograph tells

This lesson meets these Common Core Standards:

SL.11-12.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.

First Impressions

Take a few minutes to look at the photograph for “FirstLook: Learning from the Pattern-Masters.” What are your first impressions? What do you think about when you see the photo? How do you feel when you look at it? For example, the photo might spark your curiosity, making you wonder where it was taken and what place it shows. Maybe it makes you think about the time you visited a very crowded city, and it reminds you how you felt when you were there. Maybe the photo makes you sad because the shades of blue remind you of the short days of winter, or peaceful because it feels like either dawn or twilight. You get the idea. Write your first impressions—thoughts and feelings—in a journal entry. Conclude your writing with any questions that the photo raises for you. If you’d like, discuss your impressions and questions with one of your classmates.

How You Look at the Photo

Everyone looks at visual images in their own way. Many people say they notice the subject matter first. (“This is a picture of a city.”) But others might notice the color first (“This photo with beautiful shades of blue”), or the shapes (“The photo includes lots of squares and arcs”). There’s no right or wrong way to look at an image, but it’s useful to learn about your own process of looking. Now that you’ve got a few first impressions of the photo, look at it more closely. What was the first thing you noticed about it? Where did you look next? What about after that? Did you want to look at the photo more closely? If so, what was it about the picture that drew you in? Or were you not drawn in? If you weren’t doing this activity, would you have been more inclined just to flip (or click) past it? If so, why?

How You Analyze the Photo

There are different ways to analyze a photo. One way is to think about the subject matter. (Hint: The caption tells you.) Go online and do a little reading about this location. Based on what you read online and on the caption in AramcoWorld, why do you think the photographer, Richard Doughty, might have been interested in taking pictures of this scene? What is it about the subject matter that might make it interesting to someone?

Now try thinking about the photograph in another way. Think about its composition, which is different from the subject. The composition of the photo refers to how it is arranged within the frame. Maybe you think that a photographer can’t control that when he’s taking a picture like this. After all, it’s a city, not a bowl of fruit that he could pick up and move to a different location so that the light would hit it differently. But photographers make many decisions about how to photograph even places as big and unmovable as the madinah in Fez. He can decide what time of day to take the picture, where to stand, how much of the city to include in the frame, whether to zero in on one spot for a close-up, and so on. This means including some things and excluding others: It’s a process of selection. He can also make further selections by editing the picture once it’s taken: crop, change tones, and so on.

To help you think about the photographer’s decisions, look at other photos of the same place. Do a search for images of Fez’s madinah. Choose one photo to compare to Doughty’s. Working on your own or with a partner or small group, make a T chart. In one column, list the ways that the two photos are similar. In the other column, list the ways they are different. When you’re done, use the information in your chart to answer this question: What decisions did Doughty make that make his photo different from the other one you looked at? For example, he photographed in the evening rather than in full daylight. What effects did that decision have? What effects do the elements of the photo have on you as a viewer? What do you like best about the picture? Why? 

Now that you’ve looked at the photo more closely, return to your first impressions of it. Can you identify what it is about the photo that led you to think and feel certain ways when you first looked at it?

The Big Question

Capturing the Light of the Nile” includes the following quote: “No matter how accurate, paintings, drawings, and prints are always acknowledged as interpretations shaped by the artist’s hand and eye. A photograph, on the other hand, was initially thought to offer a direct, unmediated slice of reality.” You’ve done some significant analysis of a photograph of Fez. Based on the work you’ve done, write an essay that answers this Big Question: Is a photograph an accurate reproduction of reality? Use the FirstLook photo, and your analysis of it, to provide evidence for your answer.

Every Picture Tells a Story

The introduction to FirstLook explains to viewers that in this AramcoWorld department they will “find stories in a single image.” Now that you’ve looked closely at this image, what story or stories do you find in it? Is it anything like the caption? Write one of those stories. Your story need not be long, but it should be something you have discerned from studying the image. (As a model, you might use one of the stories that accompany the paintings in “Stories My Father Told Me.”) 

Stories My Father Told Me

There are many kinds of languages. Words form one kind of language; visual images have their own kind. “Stories My Father Told Me” gives you a chance to look at how the same story is told in these two different languages. In it, artist Helen Zughaib has painted pictures to accompany her father Elia’s stories about his youth. In this activity, you will compare Elia’s stories with Helen’s visual images. Doing so will give you a chance to think about creativity—how someone translates a story told in words into a story told in images and, then, how the two can work together. By the time you finish this lesson, you will be able to:

  • compare stories told in words with stories told in images
  • explain what you do or don’t like about the images that artist Helen Zughaib has created to accompany her father’s stories
  • write and illustrate your own story

This lesson meets these Common Core Standards:

SL.11-12.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.

Two Languages for Telling Stories

Divide the class into groups and assign each group one of the stories in “Stories My Father Told Me,” and the painting that accompanies the story. Read your assigned story, and look at the painting. With your group, discuss this question: How is the image in the painting connected to the story? For example, is the painting a more or less literal translation—from words to images—of the story? Or perhaps the painting represents one element of the story. Or is it abstract images based on the story? Or a combination? Once you’ve decided how the painting and story are related, discuss with your group what you like about the painting, both as a work of art and as it relates to the story. If there are things you don’t like about the painting, discuss those, too. Then bring the whole class together and have each group share its story and painting, the relationship it sees between them, and group members’ thoughts about them. 

Telling Your Own Story

At the beginning of “Stories My Father Told Me,” Helen Zughaib explains how the series of stories and paintings came about. Reread that part. Then try it yourself. You may ask an elder (a parent, grandparent, teacher, or friend) to tell you a story about his or her youth, similar to the stories that Elia told his daughter. Of, if you prefer, you can write your own story. The story should be brief, like Elia’s. Then create a visual image to go with your story. You may want to make a painting, as Helen has done, or you might prefer to make a collage, a sketch, or even a photograph. When you’re done, write a few sentences that explain the relationship between the story and the art work, using your group’s discussion to guide your thinking. When you’re done, revisit Zughaib’s paintings and stories, and your evaluation of them. Has your thinking about them changed since you’ve made your own stories? If so, how?

If you only have 15 minutes…

Sotheby’s Made in India but referred to as a “Shirazi” chest due to its Persian-influenced style, this 18th-century hardwood chest with three drawers is extensively ornamented in finely tooled plate brass. Placing the chest on legs or a stand helped protect it against moisture and insects.

Look at the photo of a dowry box above, from the article “The Art of the Dowry Chest.”  The box is at the center of the frame, set up at an angle to the viewer. The photographer had to make a decision about how to place the object and from what vantage point to photograph it. Such decisions affect both how the final picture looks and how it affects the viewer. See for yourself. Chose an object to photograph. Using your phone or a camera (or lacking those, make a “frame” with your fingers) take pictures of the object from different angles and in different places in the frame. Discuss with a partner or the class how the shots differed from each other and how that affected you as a viewer.

Julie Weiss

Julie Weiss is an education consultant based in Eliot, Maine. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies. Her company, Unlimited Horizons, develops social studies, media literacy, and English as a Second Language curricula, and produces textbook materials.

Fulbright Specialist at Royal University for Women

Thanks to a Fulbright Specialist Grant, I traveled to Bahrain to teach at the Royal University for Women in Ar-Riffa. The grant shares U.S. academics and experienced professions with host institutions around the world for short-term projects.

Royal University for Women Campus

My project was to teach documenting historic structures to a historic preservation class and to do curriculum review. Along the way I also taught a class on the history of skyscrapers and lectured about my doctoral research in Egypt. The goal is to build international institutional relationships. It’s a great way for host institutions to fund experts on campus and a wonderful experience for the specialists who get to collaborate with other institutions. In 2014, I received a grant to teach at Jordan University for Science and Technology in Irbid, Jordan. That, too was an incredible experience. Please feel free to contact me if you would like more information about hosting a Fulbright Scholar or becoming a Fulbright Specialist.
Bahrain is a tiny island country with about 1.5 million inhabitants off the coast of Saudi Arabia. It’s so close that you can drive there along the causeway. Bahrain is modern and tolerant of different cultures.
Petroleum was first discovered in Iran in 1911 and then in Iraq. Bahrain was the first discovery of oil on the Arabian side of the Persian Gulf (1932). Little did I know that it is also one of the world’s largest aluminum smelters.

ALBA aluminum smelting

Bahrain gained its independence from Great Britain in 1971 making it one of the younger countries in the world. However, as you follow my adventures, you’ll discover how much history Bahrain has.