Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lesson Plan: Sufi Tughras and Name Snowflakes

For the past couple of weeks in our World Religion class, we have been looking at Sufism, an offshoot of Islam.  A graphic symbol for many Sufi orders, which have a much more universal or interfaith approach than most practices of Islam, is the winged heart:
Another tradition in Sufism is to create the winged heart shape as a tughra, which is a calligraphic rendition of the name of the master teacher of that Sufi order (and/or words describing him/her).  So, for example, the tughra of the Sufi orders that come from the tradition established by Hazrat Inayat Khan (the predominant strand of Sufism in the United States), looks like this:

These are beautiful works of art, but not something easily done with a middle school class, since it requires both calligraphy skills and knowledge of arabic.  So instead, I drew upon something we had done years ago in Math Club with my friend Maria of Natural Math, who in turn learned it from another friend and homeschooling mom, Chrissy Akers--namely, Name Snowflakes.

To create Name Snowflakes, you fold up a piece of paper like you would to cut normal types of snowflakes that many students do in elementary school.  However, instead of just cutting out shapes, you draw the name or other word in big block letters that stretch from top fold to bottom fold and that stay attached to each other, and cut out the spaces outside the word.  If you do it right, you have the word repeated number times in different directions, which can look quite lovely.

Here is one I did with my name, Carol:

which, when unfolded, looked like this:

Here is one made from the word SUFI:

Here is the one my son did from the word WUG (chosen primarily because it didn't have any interior spaces that had to be cut out, which is the hardest part of cutting):

So they aren't nearly as lovely or as significant as a tughra, but they can turn out pretty well and at least help students understand the concept of tughras, especially since they can't distinguish the arabic letters.

Our crew had fun with them, as you might be able to tell from this picture: