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Everyday life in West Africa

Key facts

  • Suitable for: Key Stage 2
  • Subjects: Citizenship, English, History
  • Session type: Museum led
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Class size (maximum): 30
  • Venue: International Slavery Museum


A handling session using objects from the museum collection looking at traditional life in West Africa.

Students work in small groups with teachers to explore objects and images that tell us more about the rich and diverse cultures that Africa had over 600 years ago.

Further details

children looking at traditional African musical instruments

In this session students are divided into five groups and each explores a set of objects relating to the tables theme:

  • African empires
  • Daily life
  • Festivals
  • Symbols in art
  • Communication

The students start by investigating the objects; What do they feel like? What are the made from? What could they be used for? As well as who might have used these objects?

They are then given more information about their objects and asked to work on a very short group presentation. As each of the groups focuses on a different set of objects it is a great opportunity for students to listen and learn from one another.

Please be aware that this session offers a general overview of African culture before the start of transatlantic slavery and does not enter into the minutiae of the transatlantic journey or life on the plantations. Our 90 minutes session 'Understanding transatlanic slavery' covers these elements in more detail.

Curriculum links

Key Stage 2 - History

  • Know and understand significant aspects of the history of the wider world.
  • Understand historical concepts such as continuity and change
  • Understand the methods of historical enquiry

Key Stage 2 – English

  • Pupils should be able to write down their ideas quickly.
  • They should be able to prepare readings, with appropriate intonation to show their understanding.
  • Explain and discuss their understanding of what they have read, including through formal presentations and debates, maintaining a focus on the topic and using notes where necessary.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

Pupils will:

  • Gain knowledge and understanding of characteristic features of periods and societies of the past.
  • Understand how West African people use visual symbols to communicate information
  • Ask and answer questions, and to select and record information relevant to the focus of the enquiry.


Pupils will:

  • Develop object handling skills through working with the museum collections.
  • Improve their speaking and listening skills in a group discussion context.
  • Learn to give reasoned answers backed up by evidence. 


Pupils will be introduced to:

  • A number of West African traditions.
  • The significance of particular handling objects in demonstrating cultural significance.
  • The role of museums like the International Slavery Museum.


Pupils will

  • Be inspired by the creativity of West African people.
  • Be aware of the diversity of African culture.
  • See the International Slavery Museum as an enjoyable and creative place to visit.