Teachers' resource: Voyage through the Islamic Middle East

The Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art

The Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art

Key Stages 1 & 2 – Literacy and Art & Design

The children really enjoyed all aspects of this cross-curricular topic. The precursory museum visit made the themes more palpable and immediate for them'.
Teacher

Why explore Islamic Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum?

This resource shows how you can use the Jameel Gallery at the V&A to explore Islamic art and design with your class at Key Stages 1 and 2. It includes warm-up classroom activities, museum worksheets and projects to work on after a visit to the V&A.

The V&A began collecting Islamic art in 1853 because its founders believed that people could learn from studying these examples of good design. The Museum was the first public institution in the world to collect Islamic art and has one of the world’s best collections.

The V&A's Jameel Gallery of the Islamic Middle East has been recently renovated and is a spectacular space containing over 400 objects, including ceramics, textiles, carpets, metalwork, glass and woodwork. Objects range from around 700 to the 1910s and come from a range of countries from Spain in the west to Uzbekistan and Afghanistan in the east including Turkey and Iran.

This resource takes students on a voyage around this inspiring Gallery. They will see objects made both for palaces and for mosques and other religious buildings. They can find out more about Islamic art through story-telling, activity sheets and observation and design challenges. They will learn about the art and culture of another time and place and discover more about Islam, one of the major world religions.

  • About this subject
    Find background information on the Islamic faith, art and design in the Islamic Middle East and interaction with other cultures. There are links to a map of the Islamic Middle East.
  • At school/college
    Get suggestions for warm-up classroom activities; including a downloadable presentation on the topic and supporting teachers' information about key objects
  • At the Museum
    Find out how to book, plan and structure a visit to the V&A. Download resources including museum activity worksheets.
  • Case studies
    See how other schools and groups have used this resource
  • More information & learning objectives
    Find links to further information about Islamic art and specific objects in the V&A. See how the activities in this resource meet the learning objectives for Key Stages 1 & 2.
The Ardabil Carpet (detail), Iran, 1539-40. Museum no. 272-1893

The Ardabil Carpet (detail), Iran, 1539-40. Museum no. 272-1893

About the subject

Background Information for teachers

The Islamic Faith
Islam is one of the three Abrahamic religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. These are monotheistic faiths i.e. only worshipping one God, which trace their common origin to Abraham or recognize a spiritual tradition identified with Abraham. Followers of Islam are called Muslims. Today, Muslims comprise about 22% of the world's population. Islam is the second-largest religious community, after Christianity, and one of the fastest-growing religions in the world.

The Islamic holy book is the Qur'an (sometimes spelt Koran), which followers of Islam believe to be the word of God as revealed through the Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Mohammed in the early 7th century. Adam, David, Solomon, Jesus and Mary are also represented as important holy figures in the Qur’an.

Art and design
Islamic art has a number of distinctive design elements, which are often combined in the decorative scheme on a single object: These include:

  • rich colours
  • decorative patterns
  • calligraphy
  • floral or plant designs
  • geometric shapes and designs
  • symmetry

NB. Figural images e.g. paintings of people appear in non-religious contexts, including palace decorations and some book illustrations. They do not appear in religious settings because although the Qur'an does not prohibit figural imagery, it has often been discouraged in Islamic law as potentially idolatrous.

Explore: Style in Islamic Art (Interactive)

Jar, Isfahan, Iran, Fritware, 17th century. Museum number: 692-1902

Jar, Isfahan, Iran, Fritware, 17th century. Museum number: 692-1902

Trade and Cultural Interaction
Until the sixteenth century, the Middle East was a hub of international trade. Luxury goods such as carpets and inlaid metalwork were exported to Europe, and other items such as Chinese porcelain were imported. Artists and designers in the Islamic Middle East were influenced by the style of foreign imports and their work also influenced art in other countries.

At school

'The Year 3s at my school thoroughly enjoyed working on the Islamic Art ideas from the V&A. They found the story of the Ardabil Carpet fascinating'.
Teacher

Scheme of work

This resource focuses on art and design in the Islamic Middle East. It includes suggested warm up activities for the classroom, museum activity sheets and projects to continue after your visit to the V&A. Each of these could be developed as a half-term or full term project.

Warm-up activities

Use this power-point presentation and the teacher’s notes below each slide to introduce the subject of Islamic art and design and to look at the objects that you will see be viewed at the museum.

Download the V&A Voyage presentation (PPT file, 10 MB)

You can also show them this interactive map to explore the Islamic Middle East further:

Explore: Middle East map (Interactive)

Wall display at Hazlemere Church of England School

Wall display at Hazlemere Church of England School

Ask students to help you to create a wall display of what they have learned, for example key words, motifs and a map, could all help students to engage with the theme before they visit.

A key feature of the Gallery is the enormous Ardabil Carpet, made by thousands of tiny knotted threads. Students could have a go at weaving and knotting before they visit using a simple hand-made loom. This would help them understand how impressive the carpet is and how long it took to make.

Read: How the Ardabil Carpet was made (Article)

Museum activities

A visit to the museum works best if undertaken at the beginning of a scheme of work. Introduce the activities before you visit the museum and explain what pupils should be looking for at the Museum when they visit. Suggested projects are given below which you could adapt for key stages 1 – 2. Activity sheets for pupils to use in the Museum can be found in the At the Museum section of this resource.

Back at school

Here are some suggested projects to carry out after your visit to the V&A:

  • Write and illustrate a story about the Picnic Tile or the Lamps in the Ardabil Carpet
  • Design and make an Ottoman tile
  • Make a design for a carpet, using colours and motifs found in the Jameel Gallery
Write and illustrate a story about the Picnic Tile

Students could use the information they gathered at the Museum to tell a story about the scene of the Picnic Tile. The cushion that they designed in the Gallery could be the starting point for their story. They could write the story down and design a border for their work in the style of the border they saw on the tiles or other Islamic motifs.

Use this online resource to remind your class of the picnic tile and explore it in more detail when back at school.

Explore: The Picnic Tile (Interactive)

Write and illustrate a story about the lamps on the Ardabil Carpet
The two mosque lamps that appear on the Ardabil carpet are very different in size. Some people think this was done to create a perspective effect, others think that the difference is a deliberate flaw in the design, reflecting the Islamic belief that perfection belongs to God alone. Ask the children to write stories to explain the difference in size between the lamps. They could design a border for their work in the style of the borders they saw on the Ardabil carpet or other carpets in the Jameel Gallery.

Mosque lamp, detail, Ardabil carpet

Mosque lamp, detail, Ardabil carpet

Mosque lamp, detail, Ardabil carpet

Mosque lamp, detail, Ardabil carpet

School workshop, Ottoman tiles

School workshop, Ottoman tiles

Design and make an Ottoman tile
Transfer designs inspired by the Ottoman chimneypiece onto tiles. You could:

  • decorate plain tiles with ceramic paint or ceramic pens
  • make tiles from clay and decorate them
  • make a tile shape in card for students to decorate.

Encourage students to design and decorate their tile in the Ottoman style, showing what they have learned from their visit. You can remind students about the Ottoman style, using this Style Guide on a whiteboard:

Explore: Style in Islamic Art (Interactive)

Make a design for a carpet
Ask pupils to design a square of carpet, inspired by colours and motifs in the gallery at the V&A. Assemble and display the squares to make one big carpet. They could colour in their drawing or use collage. They could also make a carpet design which contains some of the key features of the Ardabil carpet:

  • Make patterned borders
  • Draw lamps
  • Use a central motif and repeat a quarter of it in each corner
  • Create a background pattern

Remind students about the Islamic pattern they saw in the Ardabil carpet.

Read: The design of the Ardabil Carpet

Schoolchildren in the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art at the V&A

Schoolchildren in the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art at the V&A

At the Museum

Visit the V&A to see original examples of Islamic Art & Design and enhance your students’ learning. The knowledge and inspiration they gain from their visit can be used in follow up activities. Download activity sheets below to use in the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art, room 42.

Before Your Visit

Book Your Visit
All school visits must be pre-booked via the bookings office on 020 7942 2211.

The V&A provides popular one hour gallery tours for primary schools. The V&A Voyage Discovery Tour can focus on China, India, Japan or the Islamic Middle East. If you’d like to book the Islamic Middle East Discover Tour, please book at least 4 weeks in advance. Your class can do the self-guided part of the visit either before or after the tour.

These cover risk assessments and how to book a picnic space.

Prepare for your visit
See the At School section of this resource for preparatory activities to do with your class before you bring them to the Museum.

Find suggested worksheets and activities for use in the V&A here. Please download and print copies for your students before you visit:

Download: Design an Ottoman Tile (PDF file, 451 KB)

Download: Design a Cushion (PDF file, 721 KB)

Download: Design an Animal Tile (PDF file, 152 KB)

Download: Design a Star (PDF file, 161 KB)

Download: Design an Islamic Carpet (PDF file, 290 KB)

Be aware of V&A regulations
No wet materials or charcoal may be used in the galleries. Photography is permitted in the Gallery. Explain to children before they visit, that objects can’t be touched because many are very fragile and valuable and can easily be damaged and that the Museum wants to preserve them so that they can be enjoyed by other people. Please also encourage children to work in small groups with an adult, rather than a large group. This will enable other visitors to see the displays at the same time. Explain to the children that whilst they are allowed to talk, they must not shout as there are other visitors at the Museum who want to enjoy the displays peacefully. Do bring clipboards to lean on, to avoid children leaning their activity sheets and work on display cases.

Your Visit

Here’s a suggested timetable for the day:

10.00
Arrival. Store coats and lunches in the Sackler Centre Lockers

10.20–11.20
Visit the Jameel Gallery in two groups. One group look at the Picnic Tile and the Chimney-Piece. The other group look at the Minbar and the Ardabil Carpet. Bear in mind that the carpet is only lit up for 10 mins every half hour on the half hour. After discussing the objects with the group, give them a selection of worksheets to do

11.30–12.00
Lunch

12.00–13.00
Return to the Jameel Gallery and swap over, looking at the objects that were missed in the morning.

13.00–14.00
Visit other areas of the museum and the gift shop

Case Studies

Here are some examples of work by schools who have used the Exploring Traditional Tales resource at the museum.

Download Case study: Senacre Wood Primary School – Art & Design Year 3 (PDF file, 173 KB)

Download Case study: Hazlemere Church of England School – Art & Design Year 6 (PDF file, 130 KB)

More information

Use these resources to find out more about Islamic Art & Design and to extend your classroom activities

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Focus on four major objects in the Jameel Gallery and learn the stories behind them and how they were made.
  • Learn about the distinct characteristics of Islamic art
  • Design their own floral and geometric patterns
  • Take design challenges to design a carpet, a cushion, an ivory panel and Ottoman tiles
  • Be encouraged to write and tell stories about the artefacts

Key Stage 1 Art & Design

Knowledge, skills and understanding
Exploring and developing ideas

1. Pupils should be taught to:

  • a - record from first-hand observation, experience and imagination, and explore ideas
  • b - ask and answer questions about the starting points for their work, and develop their ideas.

Investigating and making art, craft and design

2. Pupils should be taught to:

  • a - investigate the possibilities of a range of materials and processes
  • b - try out tools and techniques and apply these to materials and processes, including drawing
  • c - represent observations, ideas and feelings, and design and make images and objects.

Evaluating and developing work

3. Pupils should be taught to:

  • a - review what they and others have done and say what they think and feel about it
  • b - identify what they might change in their current work or develop in their future work.

Knowledge and understanding

4. Pupils should be taught about:

  • a - visual and tactile elements, including colour, pattern and texture, line and tone, shape, form and space
  • b - materials and processes used in making art, craft and design
  • c - differences and similarities in the work of artists, craftspeople and designers in different times and cultures [for example, sculptors, photographers, architects, textile designers]

Breadth of study

5. During the key stage, pupils should be taught the knowledge, skills and understanding through:

  • a - exploring a range of starting points for practical work [for example, themselves, their experiences, stories, natural and made objects and the local environment]
  • b - working on their own, and collaborating with others, on projects in two and three dimensions and on different scales
  • c - using a range of materials and processes [for example, painting, collage, print making, digital media, textiles, sculpture]
  • d - investigating different kinds of art, craft and design [for example, in the locality, in original and reproduction form, during visits to museums, galleries and sites, on the internet].

English

Speaking and listening: Listening

2. To listen, understand and respond to others, pupils should be taught to:

  • c - make relevant comments
  • d - listen to others' reactions

Speaking and listening: Group discussion and interaction

3. To join in as members of a group, pupils should be taught to:

  • d - extend their ideas in the light of discussion

Speaking and listening: Drama activities

11. The range should include:

  • b - presenting drama and stories to others [for example, telling a story through tableaux or using a narrator]

Mathematics

Shape, space and measures: Understanding patterns and properties of shape

2. Pupils should be taught to:

  • a - describe properties of shapes that they can see or visualise using the related vocabulary
  • c - create 2-D shapes and 3-D shapes
  • d - recognise reflective symmetry in familiar 2-D shapes and patterns

ICT opportunity

Pupils could use 'paint' software to explore shape, colour and pattern

Religious Education

Knowledge, skills and understanding
Learning about religio
n

1. Pupils should be taught to:

  • a - explore a range of religious stories and sacred writings and talk about their meanings
  • d - explore how religious beliefs and ideas can be expressed through the arts and communicate their responses
Attitudes
  • Pupils have the opportunity to develop respect for all.
  • Pupils have the opportunity to develop appreciation and wonder.

Key Stage 2 Art & Design

Knowledge, skills and understanding
Exploring and developing ideas

1. Pupils should be taught to:

  • c - record from experience and imagination, to select and record from first-hand observation and to explore ideas for different purposes
  • d - question and make thoughtful observations about starting points and select ideas to use in their work
  • e - collect visual and other information [for example, images, materials] to help them develop their ideas, including using a sketchbook.

Investigating and making art, craft and design

2. Pupils should be taught to:

  • d - investigate and combine visual and tactile qualities of materials and processes and to match these qualities to the purpose of the work
  • e - apply their experience of materials and processes, including drawing, developing their control of tools and techniques
  • f - use a variety of methods and approaches to communicate observations, ideas and feelings, and to design and make images and artefacts

Evaluating and developing work

3. Pupils should be taught to:

  • c - compare ideas, methods and approaches in their own and others' work and say what they think and feel about them
  • d - adapt their work according to their views and describe how they might develop it further.

Knowledge and understanding

4. Pupils should be taught about:

  • d - visual and tactile elements, including colour, pattern and texture, line and tone, shape, form and space, and how these elements can be combined and organised for different purposes
  • e - materials and processes used in art, craft and design and how these can be matched to ideas and intentions
  • f - the roles and purposes of artists, craftspeople and designers working in different times and cultures [for example, Western Europe and the wider world].

Breadth of study

5. During the key stage, pupils should be taught the Knowledge, skills and understanding through: exploring a range of starting points for practical work [for example, themselves, their experiences, images, stories, drama, music, natural and made objects and environments]

  • a - working on their own, and collaborating with others, on projects in two and three dimensions and on different scales
  • b - using a range of materials and processes, including ICT [for example, painting, collage, print making, digital media, textiles, sculpture]
  • c - investigating art, craft and design in the locality and in a variety of genres, styles and traditions [for example, in original and reproduction form, during visits to museums, galleries and sites, on the internet].

ICT opportunities

  • Pupils could use digital and video cameras to record observations.
  • Pupils could use digital images as a starting point for creative textile work.
  • Pupils could develop their own class art gallery on the school website.

English - Speaking and listening: Listening

2. To listen, understand and respond appropriately to others, pupils should be taught to:

  • b - ask relevant questions to clarify, extend and follow up ideas
  • e - respond to others appropriately, taking into account what they say

Religious Education

Knowledge, skills and understanding
Learning about religion

1. Pupils should be taught to:

  • f - explore a range of religious stories and sacred writings and talk about their meanings
  • g - explore how religious beliefs and ideas can be expressed through the arts and communicate their responses

Breadth of study

3. During the key stage, pupils should be taught the knowledge, skills and understanding through the following areas of study:

  • Themes - Story: how and why some stories are sacred and important in religion
  • Experiences and opportunities - Using art and design, music, dance and drama to develop their creative talents and imagination
  • Attitudes - Pupils have the opportunity to develop respect for all. Pupils have the opportunity to develop appreciation and wonder.

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