Teaching tips and resources

17th January 2003 at 00:00
Key stages 1 and 2

The lamp fits in well with any topics relating to letter formation or writing. Encourage the children to experiment by drawing different letter shapes (from any alphabet with which they are familiar): elongating the uprights; making the letter curves angular; joining the letters in unfamiliar ways; drawing letters by outline and filling in the centres. Get them to write their name and something about themselves. Ask them to make the words fill different shapes, perhaps experimenting on paper plates.

You can also use the lamp in relation to any activity concerning light, either related to science or around religious festivals relating to light.

Ask the children to experiment with shapes cut from opaque paper and stuck on to a transparent background. How does the effect differ when placed in front of a source of light, or a dark background? Alternatively get them to cut shapes out of coloured card and paste cellophane behind it to see the effect in reverse. These two activities can be combined, with the cut shapes spelling out words or phrases.

Key stage 3

The mosque lamp is a useful tool to stimulate discussion when studying the Islamic civilisations history option at KS3. The very nature of the Mamluk regime is embodied in its decoration and the lamp can also be used to provoke discussion of the importance of patronage of art and architecture in the Islamic world. Background reading is suggested below and the British Museum's education department produces resources to support the Islamic civilisations option.

Key stage 4

Perhaps the best way to use the mosque lamp for any art and design project is in the context of objects conveying messages. Sayf al-Din Shaykhu's lamp is packed with them, such as: it would have been expensive to make; it is very heavy and needed two people to blow it - one to blow, another to support it; the enamel colours are time-consuming to make and have to be applied in turn; and this is apart from the skill it takes to apply the inscription and decoration. Shaykhu was declaring his status not only by the inscription, but by the lamp itself. The religious messages have been outlined above.

A project could pose the problem of a donor to an institution commissioning an object for display along with the messages they wished to convey.

This mosque lamp is on display in the John Addis Islamic Gallery in the British Museum or you can see it in the museum's collections database COMPASS on the website www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk

Further reading: Islamic Art by Barbara Brend pound;16.99; Arabic Calligraphy: Naskh style for beginners by Mustafa Ja'far, pound;6.99; Glass: 5,000 years, edited by Hugh Tait; Gilded and Enamelled Glass from the Middle East by Rachel Ward, pound;48.50 - all these titles are published by the British Museum Press

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