#MathArtChallenge Day 71: Sona Drawings

Given what’s happening in my community right now, I felt it was necessary to highlight some Black brilliance today.

The Challenge: (Re)create a Sona drawing. I did a couple hours of research yesterday (which is totally insufficient to fully understand it), but what I can tell you is that these drawings originate with the Chokwe people in southwestern Africa, specifically Angola and the southern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The drawings are told in conjunction with a story, and the goal of most is to draw them in as unbroken a line. Please check out some of the resources below, and if you have others to add, I’d love to see them and link them here.

Materials Needed: grid, pencil, paper, perhaps graphing software.
Math concepts you could explore with this challenge: angles, counting, geometry, graph theory, proportions/ratios, slope, symmetry, vertices/intersections

As you can see, I made a number of mistakes in doing these. I wanted to leave those mistakes in because I think it’s important, as a teacher, to model making mistakes, and also because I want you to appreciate the challenge of some of these drawings. To draw in a wholly unbroken line is not always an obvious task.

All of the drawings I did here were highlighted in the articles I found – not yet confident enough to create my own images, although this is absolutely a thing I’ll return to when I’m done.


Depending on how you use this activity, you may engage with different mathematical standards. I’ve listed possible connected math content above. Here are a few suggestions for how you might integrate the 8 mathematical practices. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments! 

1.) Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. Can you create a description to guide a complete circuit throughout any given drawing? How do you know when to turn around, make a 180 degree turn?

8.) Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning. What can you say about the total number of lines needed to complete an nxm grid?

Author: Ms. P

Math Teacher in Minneapolis, MN.

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