Illustrated art Desmond Tutu

What's this lesson about

Through the example of Desmond Tutu, the students will learn how peaceful leadership qualities, tolerance, and non-violent methods can be a path to peace.

Learning goals

  • Students will know who Desmond Tutu was and why he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Students will understand history of apartheid and segregations in South-Africa.
  • Students will understand how listening, and dialogue can be strategies to avoid conflict.


  • Lesson Slides
  • Picture Talk Cards
  • Plain Paper
  • Student worksheet
Lesson Slides Desmond Tutu


Background Information:

Desmond Tutu was a South African Anglican bishop and theologian, known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist. He was Bishop of Johannesburg from 1985 to 1986 and then Archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 to 1996, in both cases being the first black African to hold the position.

Most notable in his work is that he emphasized a consensus-building model of leadership and oversaw the introduction of female priests.

After Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, Mandela and Tutu led negotiations to end apartheid and introduce multi-racial democracy. In 1994, an election resulted in a coalition government headed by Mandela. Mandela selected Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses committed by both pro and anti-apartheid groups.

He was popular among South Africa's Black majority. He was internationally praised for his work involving anti-apartheid activism, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize and other international awards.

Key Vocabulary:

  • Non-violence: the use of peaceful means, not force, to bring about political or social change.
  • Apartheid: a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race in South Africa
  • Segregation: the action or state of setting someone or something apart from other people or things or being set apart.
  • Dialogue: take part in a conversation or discussion to resolve a problem.
  • Listening: trying to hear something; being alert and ready to hear something.

Tap into students’ prior knowledge by warming up the class with a few of the following questions (see answers in key facts section above). Record student answers and thoughts on the board or on chart paper:

  • Have you heard of South Africa? Do you know where it is?
  • Have you heard of Apartheid? What is it?
  • Have you heard of Nelson Mandela? Who was he?
  • Has anyone heard of Desmond Tutu? Who was he?
  • What is discrimination?

Use the slides to introduce Desmond Tutu to the students.

Picture Talk (10 min):

Picture Talk is a game about listening and designed to help students understand the importance of listening and clear communication. In Picture Talk, players try to be the most effective communicators and listeners. Players act as either Describers or Copiers. Describers provide directions to the copiers on how to draw a given image based on the game cards WITHOUT seeing what the copier is drawing. Copiers must follow the directions for what to draw WITHOUT being able to ask clarifying questions.

1. Set the Stage:

  • Lead a quick discussion on the importance of Tutu, his work and his peaceful approach to leadership. Use the following questions to guide your discussion:
    • What does it mean to listen to someone?
    • How can listening to someone be an act of peace?
    • Can you think of a time when you listened to someone’s feelings or opinions, and it helped you understand how they were feeling?
    • How does it feel when someone listens and really understands your feelings?
    • When conflicts arise, how can conversations and listening be helpful?
    • Listening to others is not always easy. What can make it hard? How can we really practice listening and understanding each other?

2. Play Picture Talk:

  • Tell students that they are going to play a game that will help them understand the importance of clear communication and good listening.
  • Model a first round by choosing a card from the game deck.
  • Tell students that they will try to recreate the drawing on the card, but they will not be able to see it, they will have to listen to the description and draw what they hear.
  • Start the first round by describing the picture on the card. You may use any words to instruct the copiers how to draw the picture.
  • The students are not allowed to ask clarifying questions, but they can ask you to repeat what you said.
  • When all students are finished, reveal the original drawing, and ask students to hold up their drawings to reveal what they drew.
  • Play a few more rounds asking students to volunteer to be the describer and pick a new card.
  • Debrief the experience. Was it easy or hard to recreate the pictures? What were some things the describer did to help the copiers? What are some things they could have done differently? What did this help you understand about listening?

Picture Analysis - ONE LAST ROUND! (10 min)

  • Tell students they are going to play one more round of picture talk. Give each student one of the historical pictures. Pair students up and make sure that their partner has a different picture.
  • Tell students they will try to explain to their partner what they see in the picture. Tell them to just describe the objects and details, but they are not allowed to describe colors, words in the picture or emotions or any interpretations. (This is important for later) The other student is not allowed to see the picture but must try to draw what their partner describes. They are allowed this time, however, to ask questions along the way.
  • Once the first students have gone, have them switch so both students have had a chance to describe and draw.
  • Once both students have both described and drawn, allow them to show each other their drawings but do not let them show each other the original picture yet.
  • Using the PowerPoint, show the class the original historical pictures.
  • Lead a quick discussion to help students understand that everyone in the class was hearing about the same pictures and yet the drawings were different. Even when we are not angry, it is possible to experience hearing something other than what is being said. It is easy to misunderstand each other. It is important to practice becoming a good listener, but also to learn how to choose the right words by asking questions to understand each other better.
  • Ask them to think about the exercise they just did: When they became unsure of what the person explaining meant, they asked questions to get a better explanation. They did this naturally to avoid misunderstandings. Sometimes just realizing something is a misunderstanding can help you move on in a nonviolent way.
    • Reflect on the content of the pictures:
    • How do these pictures make you feel?
    • How do you think this felt to not be able to take the same busses, eat at the same restaurants, not go to the same schools and for Black people to not have the same rights as the white people?
  • Explain again that Desmond Tutu worked to change all this, and that apartheid lasted from 1948 to 1994. After aparteid ended in 1994 he worked to have the society forgive each other, despite the discrimination and injustice.
  • Have the students revisit their drawings and fill in their drawings with what they think should be there, instead of what they see in the pictures. Invite students to make the drawings into the artwork they think it should be in a world free of racism.