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Children use their knowledge of geometry to create personal versions of Samoan Siapo bark cloth.
Invite your class to learn about Samoa, a part of Oceania. This area of about 25,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean off of Australia is inhabited by the Samoans, known for an artistic style called Siapo. Bark from a mulberry trees is pounded into very thin sheets and dried in the sun. Artists mix plant dyes and other natural materials to paint stylized designs, primarily geometric shapes, on the cloth.
To make a replica of Siapo bark cloth, provide each student with a brown paper bag. Demonstrate how to tear a large section of the bag so the edges are a bit ruffled. Ask students to crumple the paper tightly, unfold, and flatten it. This can be repeated several times so the paper is very pliable, much like fabric.
Students will cover their work space with recycled newspaper. Ask students to take note of how most Siapo fabrics have black lines that divide the area of the cloth into several small areas. Using Crayola Tempera Paint, ask students to mark their division lines.
Inside each of these areas, students will use other colors to paint geometric shapes. Participants can dab the brush inside the paper cracks. Mix Crayola Texture It! Mixing Medium with some of the paint colors, or brush it on top of painted areas. Several coats of color can be added for a variety of effects. Encourage experimentation.
Invite students to create smaller shapes on top of larger ones after the first layer of paint is slightly dry. Also suggest leaving some of the bag showing through. Add lines, dots, or any design to make the fabric style unique. Air-dry completely.
Once artwork is dry, ask students to compose a paragraph describing how they designed the original Samoan Siapo bark cloth. Display each piece with student writing in a prominent place in the classroom.
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