Simone Leigh For Younger Children

A graphic of Simone Leigh's "Sentinel IV"

Sentinel IV


Simone Leigh

American, born 1967

Subject: Found objects and scale

Activity: Sculpting and re-imagining everyday objects in a new scale

Materials: Clay or similar material (model magic airdry clay, etc)

Vocabulary: Ceremonial, sentinel, scale, Zulu


Leigh’s sculpture is inspired by West and South African traditions. She made the sculpture to look like a wooden ceremonial spoon. Weddings are important for the joining of two families, and these spoons are a special part of Zulu weddings. After the wedding ceremony, the wooden object is saved and displayed in the married family’s home.

The sculpture is also inspired by a sentinel, a guard who stands watch and protects people. In Sentinel IV, Leigh combines the two objects, a watchful guardian and a ceremonial spoon that celebrates marriage.


Can you think of any objects in your home that are saved from important events?

When and how do you use them?

Why is it important?


Sculpt an object of your choice using clay. It can be anything you want: something you like, something you use every day, or something important to you. Change the way your object looks by making your sculpture bigger or smaller than the actual object.


Leigh celebrates Black women with her work. Sentinel IV is a larger-than-life celebration of Black women who protect their families and culture.

Look again

Does the sculpture seem like a protector to you? Look back at your sculpture - is it also celebrating certain people? Why is it important to celebrate them?


Ceremonial ‒ Something that is a part of or used for a religious or public event

Scale ‒ The overall physical size of an artwork or objects in the artwork

Sentinel ‒ A guard whose job is to keep watch and protect people

Zulu ‒ An ethnic group in Southern Africa. The Zulu people are the largest ethnic group and nation in South Africa, with an estimated 10–12 million people, living mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.