Art Education students present “Zellij: The Mosaic Art of Morocco” at local middle school

student completes her acrylic painting on the raised portions of her zellij project

KENNESAW, Ga. (May 31, 2019) — Kennesaw State University’s Year of Morocco (YoM) seeks to bring people together to discuss and experience unique features of the country’s society and culture, and to bring an awareness and appreciation for Morocco directly to the campus community and beyond through numerous events and special courses. 

One such course project was “Zellij: The Mosaic Art of Morocco,” developed by artist/professor-in-residence Mona Hussein from Alexandria University of Egypt in collaboration with KSU’s art education professor Sandra Bird. Sponsored by KSU’s Division of Global Affairs with additional support from the School of Art and Design, the art education course contributed to the internationalization of KSU’s curriculum by focusing on this the ancient art of mosaic.

Hussein and Bird taught undergraduate art education students how to create a faux zellij project and also instructed students on the context behind the art form. The contextual instruction included architecture, music, traditional clothing and fashion, food and spices, languages, henna body ornaments, and more. Dr. Hussein ordered Moroccan zellij wooden molds to create faux zellij projects, and then the students constructed a curricular unit to present to middle school students.

Lucky middle school students at Pine Mountain Middle School (PMMS) were the recipients of that knowledge as the undergraduate students led an introduction to Morocco as part of a service learning practicum in fall of 2018. 

Participating undergraduate students included including Kelly L’Estrage, Chloe Redstone, Marni Roberts, Hailey Mitchell, Emily Spencer, and Amanda Williamson. Roberts presented the group’s work at the Georgia Art Education Association 2018 Fall Conference, and Mitchell led the process of creating the zellij project during the first lesson to 7th graders at PMMS.

The second lesson featured leaders Williams and Redstone wearing traditional Moroccan clothing while leading an introduction on Moroccan music and fashion. Technical assistant Spencer managed the computer keyboard during the presentation.

The third lesson, demonstrated by L’Estrange, involved filling the recessed section of the cast zellij pattern with gesso.  

For lesson four, the middle school students (using a pathways approach) were able to choose between several different projects designed by the teaching team for lesson four, including painting the zellij projects, writing their names in Arabic using calligraphy, and tasting a “Poulet Beldi M’qalli,”(a tagine dish made with chicken, olives, and lemon), especially prepared for the students by L’Estrage.  Finally, the undergraduate students assessed the completed zellij projects using a team-developed rubric. 

Photos by Sandra Bird
Professor | Art Education