A Year 5 Art Week Project : Creation Stories

Creation Stories

All cultures seek to explain how everything in this world was created. They come up with their own creation stories that describe the creation of themselves and the things around them. Most creation stories also attempt to explain mysterious phenomena, teach lessons to the listeners, and emphasize aspects of life that each culture finds important.

They often emphasize the importance of obeying laws. Many stories demonstrated that one should always obey the laws of the creator because it is usually for one's own benefit anyway. When people disobeyed warnings they were punished in ways that made living with nature more difficult.

The myths involve interaction of man and nature. Creation myths are an interesting way to learn about a culture since the stories reveal a great deal about the values of the culture and the aspects of this world that are important to them.

The children of Year 5 have been exploring these stories and comparing them with the religious traditions they are familiar with. We also discussed the oral tradition of storytelling in many cultures and how the earliest stories may first have been represented in pictures. We made our own paintings using modern water colour paints.

We then investigated how early pictures would have been created using colours and materials from nature. The children made their own natural colours from materials they gathered from around the school environment. The certainly found it more challenging to use these materials than the modern paints used for their pictures.

The painting formed part of the school display at the Potters Bar Carnival and can be seen around the school display boards.

Here is an example of one of the stories we studied. It comes from the Yoruba peoples of the ancient kingdom of Benin, which was located in the region of modern day Nigeria.

Yoruba Mythology

According to Yoruba (YOUR-a-bah) mythology, the first Yoruba kings were the offspring of the creator, Oduduwa (oh-doo-DOO-wah). A Yoruba king's crown identifies the status of its wearer and gives the king the power to interact with the spirit world in order to benefit his people. A veil, a large face, and a group of birds commonly appear on a Yoruba king's crown.

Long, long ago, Olorun (OH-low-run), the sky god, lowered a great chain from the heavens to the ancient waters. Down this chain climbed Oduduwa, Olorun's son. Oduduwa brought with him a handful of dirt, a special five-toed chicken, and a palm nut. He threw the dirt upon the ancient waters and set the chicken on the dirt. The chicken busily scratched and scattered the dirt until it formed the first dry earth. In the center of this new world, Oduduwa created the magnificent Ife (EE-fay) kingdom. He planted the palm nut, which grew into a proud tree with 16 branches, symbolizing the 16 sons and grandsons of Oduduwa.

Oduduwa was the first ruler of the kingdom and the father of all Yoruba. Over time he crowned his 16 sons and grandsons and sent them off to establish their own great Yoruba kingdoms. As descendants of the sky god, these first Yoruba rulers and their direct descendants were divine kings. Only they could wear special veiled crowns that symbolized their sacred power.