Image and identity: scheme of work

The activities outlined below can either be used together to form a unit of work or as a series of discrete activities enabling the theme to be explored in greater depth.

With reference to portraits from the Arab world and Middle East, and photographic sources, students will explore the themes of image and identity.

Artwork by Plashet School students


Discover the Arab World image cards - Image and identity: pdf (617 kb)
- Cairo Faces
- Poster of Yasser Arafat
- Stone memorial for Tamma
- Hands of Fatima
- Umm Kulthum

Website of artist Chant Avedissian (look particularly at the stencil images)
See the further resources section for other useful websites and support materials

Use the internet to make a collection of image portraits from different times and places

Props: glasses, hats, coats, scarves (students can provide their own)


In this unit, students will:

  • develop a printed or stenciled portrait based on personal research of self and family
  • explore issues around representation and identity through portraits of self and others
  • develop critical awareness through their own creative work and by looking at the work of others


Have a discussion with the class about self-image and what makes us who we think we are.

Show the students Cairo Faces, Poster of Yasser Arafat, Stone memorial for Tamma and Hands of Fatima from the Discover the Arab World resources and discuss the variety and nature of portraits of people from the Arab world and Middle East.

Look at Umm Kulthum by Chant Avedissian. Ask the students for their initial reactions then ask them to read the information about Umm Kulthum. Discuss the person the artist is portraying and why he has chosen to represent her in this way. Talk about the stenciling process Avedissian used to create the image and show more examples from his website.

Talk about the ways in which other artists from other cultures have created portrait images. Show a selection of images from different artistic traditions where possible.

Introduce the unit task – students are to develop a printed portrait of themselves.

Activity 1

Ask the students to investigate a range of different portraits and to identify the ways in which different artists represented themselves or others. Discuss with students ideas on representing themselves to others. How would they like to be seen? What kind of message would they like to communicate? Ask them to make notes on how, in words and images they would choose to represent themselves.

Activity 2

Using the props, ask the students to take photographs of each other in different poses. How do they see themselves? Remind them about activity 1 – what are they trying to communicate through their portraits? Make printouts for students to stick in their sketchbooks and annotate.

Activity 3

Ask the students to collect information and ephemera about themselves: photographs, objects, pieces of writing, artwork, biographical details, clothing etc. In their sketchbooks, students should make a series of studies incorporating text and other visual information to describe themselves.

Activity 4

Use photocopies to create multiple images of different sizes then show the students how to create a collage that combines images of self, family objects, symbols and text to describe themselves. Refer them to Chant Avedissian’s work and show them how to make a cardboard stencil or printing block. Using photographs created earlier, demonstrate how images can be simplified using digital software. Show them how to print using a limited range of colours.

Activity 5

Remind the class of the unit task. Ask the students to use their research to create a finished composition about themselves. The portrait can either be a single printed/stenciled image or a combined with collage elements to represent their self-image and identity. Once completed, the portraits could be screenprinted to create a large banner to represent the work and diversity of the class.


Once they have completed the work, the students should write up and evaluate the process, explaining the significance of their image and identity piece.