2019 Fine Arts Competition

Date: May 17, 2019

The 2019 AUAF Fine Arts Competition for International Assyrian Artists gives Assyrian visual artists worldwide at any stage of their careers the opportunity to promote their work and enhance their careers. This year’s theme is Enlightenment.

Assyrian artists are invited to submit original pieces in any two-dimensional medium, excluding photography. Art submitted to the competition will be reviewed by an independent panel of expert jurors to ensure a fair and balanced judgment process. Prizes will be awarded to the artists whose work best represent the theme:

1st Place—$5,000
2nd Place—$3,000
3rd Place—$2,000
Submission deadline is September 15, 2019, at 11:59 pm.

The competition is open to Assyrian artists from around the world aged 18 years or older. Read our 2019 competition guidelines for more information.

Contact finearts@auaf.us with questions. Click here to see last year’s winners.

Make a Mini-Piñata for Kha b’Nissan

Date: March 29, 2017

As a tribute to the traditional twelve-day celebration of the Assyrian New Year, we’re sharing unique ways to honor Akitu no matter where you are in the world as we count down the days to Kha b’Nissan 6767.

It can be tough to get the little ones in the spirit of the new year. But sometimes, a simple, small activity can do the trick. Here’s an easy craft that is guaranteed to bring you smiles this Saturday morning.


  • Toilet paper roll
  • Tissue paper (dark and light blues, white, red, yellow)
  • Tape
  • Ribbon
  • Scissors
  • Glue gun (optional)
  • Small candy


  1. Cut your tissue paper into strips. The strips should be about 6 inches long, and 2.5 inches wide. You should have two strips of each color.
  2. Fold the strips in half “hot dog style.” Tape the strips down to your table so that the folded end is facing you.
  3. Snip vertical lines along the tissue paper strip. We recommend snips be about a centimeter wide, but you can cut these as you like.
  4. Cut two square sheets of tissue paper. You will need one to cover each of the holes, so use the holes as a guide for size. Cover the bottom hole using one small square of tissue paper. Secure with tape. Don’t worry about what it looks like because it will be covered. Make sure you only use a single piece. Doubling up might seem like a good idea now, but it will be a problem later.
  5. Starting from the bottom, select a strip of tissue paper prepared in step 3 to wrap around the roll. We recommend using the same colored tissue paper as the piece you chose to cover the bottom hole. The tape should be used to position the strip.
  6. Work your way up until the whole roll is covered, covering the top of each strip with the fringe of the next one.
  7. Make confetti by cutting up extra strips of tissue paper into tiny bits.
  8. Fill the paper roll with small pieces of candy and your homemade confetti. We used Hershey’s Kisses.
  9. Cut a piece of ribbon to serve as your handle.
  10. Use a glue gun to secure the handle. The two ends should be placed inside the circle directly across from one another.
  11. Use the glue gun to trace along the top rim of the roll. Place the second sheet over the top and trim away the excess.
  12. Cut piece of ribbon several inches long and tape to the bottom so that it hangs.
  13. When you pull the bottom string, it will tear open the bottom. Out will come the candy and confetti. Happy New Year!

The History and Meaning Behind the Assyrian Flag

Date: March 27, 2017


As a tribute to the traditional twelve-day celebration of the Assyrian New Year, we’re sharing unique ways to honor Akitu no matter where you are in the world as we count down the days to Kha b’Nissan 6767.

An easy way to mark the Assyrian New Year: Display the flag. Whether it’s outside your house or on your car: Fly it proudly. Here’s some information on the background and meaning of the Assyrian flag.

Some background

The Assyrian flag was designed by George Bit Atanus in 1968, but it wasn’t until 1971 that it was officially adopted by all Assyrian organizations. The flag’s design bears a white background with a golden (not yellow!) circle at the center, surrounded by a four-pointed star in a light blue—commonly referred to as the Assyrian Star. Four triple-colored, widening, wavy stripes connect the star to the four corners of the flag in red, white, and blue. Above the star sits the ancient Assyrian god Ashur.

What does it mean? 

  • Golden circle: Represents the sun, which by its exploding and leaping flames, generates heat and light to sustain the earth and all living things.
  • Assyrian star: Symbolizes the land—its light blue color denotes tranquility.
  • Stripes: Representation of the three major rivers of Assyria: Tigris, Euphrates, and the Great Zab—in red, blue, and white, respectively. The blood red also stands four courage, glory, and pride. The white symbolizes peace. It is also said that the stripes symbolize the path back to the homeland. 
  • Ashur symbol: A tribute to the ancient Assyrians.

Did you know? 

At one point, this was the official Assyrian flag, adopted prior to World War I. Created by the Syriac Orthodox community of Tur Abdin, the flag had three horizontal stripes in salmon, white, and red. On the salmon layer, there were three white stars positioned in the top left corner. These stars represented the three main churches of the Assyrian people: Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church, and Syriac Orthodox Church. The flag was used during delegation meetings between Assyrian politicians and Western leaders. This flag was abandoned in favor of Bit Atanus’s design.

5 tools to help you learn Assyrian

Date: March 26, 2017

As a tribute to the traditional twelve-day celebration of the Assyrian New Year, we’re sharing unique ways to honor Akitu no matter where you are in the world as we count down the days to Kha b’Nissan. 

It’s incredible to think that the Assyrian language has survived, evolving and spreading, for nearly seven thousand years. For the first time in Assyrian history, the majority of Assyrians live outside of our traditional homeland, and as a result, many are unable to read and write in Assyrian. Take the initiative to learn your language: Accepting this responsibility is the only way to ensure its survival.

Here are some ways to learn the Assyrian language:

  1. Subscribe to Rinyo. We are proud to count ourselves among Rinyo’s biggest supporters. The organization was established to make available modern resources to help young Assyrians learn their language. Products are available in all Assyrian dialects. From mobile apps to songs, videos, and interactive books, Rinyo’s products are used and loved across the globe. Check it out: Learn the Assyrian alphabet with this fun song.
  2. Visit LearnAssyrian.com. This website is a wonderful resource but requires serious drive and commitment. Grab a sheet of paper and a pen, and get ready to teach yourself using their free 41-page guide. If you’ve got little ones at home, LearnAssyrian is also home to the wildly popular Assyrian alphabet learning blocks. Order yours today.
  3. Download Base 2 Applications apps. Take a look at their popular Assyrian apps available to you in the App Store. Their apps will make learning the alphabet fun at any age.
  4. Attend classes at the ANCI. The Assyrian National Council of Illinois offers Assyrian language classes for both children and adults in the Chicagoland area. Take advantage of these free courses; before you know it, you’ll be reading right to left with ease. Assyrian language classes are offered across the United States. If you’re outside Illinois and looking for a class near you, feel free to contact us for help.
  5. Sargon Says. SargonSays.com offers an English to Assyrian dictionary that is an incredible resource to those looking to refine their language skills, as well as those new to the language.


5 Important Reasons to Teach Your Kids Assyrian History

Date: March 24, 2017

As a tribute to the traditional twelve-day celebration of the Assyrian New Year, we’re sharing unique ways to honor Akitu no matter where you are in the world as we count down the days to Kha b’Nissan. 

Most diaspora-born Assyrians have a vague sense of their history. They know, for example, that it spans thousands of years. They’ve heard and repeated the phrase “the cradle of civilization.” They can probably name a few famous Assyrian kings, and they surely know of Queen Shamiran. Fast forward a couple thousand years—they also know that our modern history has been defined by genocidal violence. But that’s about it.

If you’re a parent, you certainly don’t need to be told why it’s necessary that you’re involved in your child’s education. However, it can be difficult to figure out what subjects to prioritize now, and what can wait until they’re older, especially with limited resources available to you. But’s important to expose them to Assyrian history. Here’s why:

  1. Children develop a greater appreciation of history when they learn it early.
    Studies have shown that skills children are taught to appreciate at an early age translate into good habits and deep passions as they grow and mature. Take, for example, a child that spends every Sunday cheering on the Chicago Bears with her parents. She will likely become a Bears fan for life (and also develop serious levels of patience). Or consider a child who takes music lessons—he’s far more likely to continue to practice as an adult. A child who goes fishing with his father, and so on. While learning Assyrian history is not exactly a recreational activity, it can be fun. Children enjoy fun facts and interesting stories. Spend some time talking about the history of the great nation of which they are descendants. Keep reading for ideas on how to provide them with opportunities to ask questions and seek answers about their history.
  2. They will not learn about Assyrian history in school. Most Assyrian-American students will never hear the word “Assyrian” uttered by their teachers, nor will they see it printed in a textbook. Those that do might come across it once or twice while flipping through pages when searching for their assigned reading, but its is never a part of a school’s curriculum. While Assyrian history is certainly not the only one that’s overlooked, it must be prioritized in Assyrian households. It is absolutely important to encourage children to learn about the history of Western nations, but it’s just as important to realize that their history classes will exclude information about Assyrians. This will have lasting negative effects on their understanding of their own history, as it’s likely they will come to accept its exclusion as a lack of importance. Spend time personalizing Assyrian historical figures and events for your children. Check out our list below for ideas on how to do this. They should have the opportunity to learn about topics and important events related to Assyrians that they will not be learning in class.
  3. It will help shape their identity as an Assyrian. As children grow and mature, there is a natural, increase desire for them to explore their roots—they want to know who they are and where they come from. Learning Assyrian history can provide Assyrians of any age with a better sense of their identity, including children.
  4. Exposing your child to Assyrian history will help them develop qualities like empathy and tolerance.
    Learning about your ancestors and cultural heritage is essential. For most Assyrians growing up in American schools, they naturally view the histories of other peoples, including their own, as foreign. Giving them the opportunity to study Assyrian history will help broaden their perspective. They will come to understand and appreciate that there is more to the world than what they’ve known. A child who is taught about other countries and backgrounds is more likely to grow up to be compassionate, socially-aware, and tolerant.
  5. Learning about Assyrian history helps children build connections with their community.
    A child who has been given the opportunity to explore their own history is more likely to get involved with their community later in life. This can mean many things—perhaps they will get involved with the Assyrian Athletic Club, pursue Assyrian studies, or become a social activist—regardless, they will recognize the importance of their involvement. They will grow up feeling connected to other Assyrians, and will appreciate the sense of belonging.

Here are some easy ideas: 

  1. Visit The Ashurbanipal Library at AUAF. As the largest collection of Assyrian texts outside the homeland, you will find almost everything by Assyrians or about Assyrians under our roof. Not only will they find plenty of books on Assyrian history, but they will appreciate the experience.
  2. Take a trip to the Oriental Institute. The museum’s Assyria Collection will leave any young one in awe of their history.
  3. Try one of our Assyrian-themed arts and crafts activities. They provide the perfect opportunity to talk to your kids about their history, and gets the little ones engaged.
  4. Encourage your children to select an Assyrian book or figure for their school project when possible.
  5. Share with them important documentaries focusing on Assyrians. The Last Plight is a moving documentary that’s a must-see for all Assyrians. Though it’s only ten minutes long, it packs a heavy message. It may not be appropriate for your youngest kids, but those in the double-digits should see it. It’s guaranteed to spark all the right questions.

Liven up your home for Kha b’Nissan

Date: March 22, 2017

The first of April—or Kha b’Nissan—marks the Assyrian New Year, also known as Akitu. In ancient Assyria, the new year was celebrated for a period of twelve days. Now, after thousands of years, Assyrians are spread all over the globe but continue to honor the holiday annually.

As a tribute to the twelve-day custom, we’re sharing unique ways to honor Akitu no matter where you are in the world.

Liven up your home with this fresh decorating idea. Flowers are an important symbol in the celebration of Akitu. The new year marks the start of spring—representing life and revival.  Regardless of the weather outside your window (there’s still some snow on the ground in Chicago), it’s easy to bring the spirit and beauty of the Assyrian New Year into your home.

We stopped at our local Jewel to pick up flowers; their floral department is always stocked with tons of market bunches, giving you plenty of room for creativity without breaking your budget. See our bouquets below for inspiration as you build your own Akitu-themed bouquet.

Here’s our quick how-to: 

  1. Decide on your color scheme. We went with the colors of the Assyrian flag: red, blue, white, and yellow. This is optional. Note: We spray-painted flowers to get that vivid blue you see in our pictures. It’s tough to get a good blue; blue hydrangeas are beautiful but too light for what we were trying to achieve and sometimes look purple. There is special floral spray paint that you might choose to use. We really wanted a blue that pops. Here’s a quick tutorial video that gives you a look at how it’s done.
  2. Choose a strong primary flower. This will be the focus of the piece. We suggest limiting primary flowers to two or three, otherwise they might clash with one another and your bouquet will look too busy.
  3. Choose secondary flowers to compliment your primary flowers. This is a great way to add some color. Don’t be afraid to use greens, even if you’re doing the flag’s colors.
  4. Decide on a size. The vase you decide to use should be your guide when determining your bouquet’s size. Mason jars are always a great choice—and you can get them for a dollar at Michael’s Craft Store. Michael’s also offers many different inexpensive vases that will fit any floral design. (Don’t forget your coupon.)
  5. Trim down your stems before starting. Keep flowers in a bucket of cool water until you’re ready to build your bouquet.
  6. Build your bouquet around your primary flowers. Check out our pictures below for inspiration, or look online.
  7. Consider adding bows to bring in some more color, or maybe throw in a small Assyrian flag to give it a touch of Kha b’Nissan.
  8. Snap pics and share your photos with us using #12DaysofAkitu.

Don’t miss our Kha b’Nissan Flower Workshop this Saturday! There are several spots still remaining. Click here to register.


How to make a tissue paper Assyrian flag

Date: March 21, 2017

The first of April—or Kha b’Nissan—marks the Assyrian New Year, also known as Akitu. In ancient Assyria, the new year was celebrated for a period of twelve days. Now, after thousands of years, Assyrians are spread all over the world, but continue to honor the holiday annually.

As a tribute to the twelve-day custom, we’re sharing unique ways to honor Akitu no matter where you are in the world.

Looking for a fun way to get your kids thinking about Akitu? The Assyrian flag is a great place to start. Here’s a simple, inexpensive craft that will give you the chance to talk to them about Assyria and the new year.


  • Tissue paper (red, blue, white, light blue, yellow)
  • Elmer’s glue
  • Pencil
  • Card stock
  • Marker
  • Picture of Assyrian flag (print out or electronic)
  • Cardboard (optional)


  1. Cut tissue paper into small squares (2×2 is a good size). You will need more red, blue, and white squares for the piece. A good technique is to start by cutting tissue paper into strips, and then proceed to cut the stacked strips into squares. They don’t have to be perfect—it won’t matter later.
  2. Draw an Assyrian flag onto a blank piece of card stock. We made the star a bit larger than usual. The color of the paper and the marker doesn’t matter. We used a standard 8.5×11 sheet, but this project will work with any size. You can use regular sheets of paper if you don’t have card stock handy, but using a thicker stock will ensure the flag doesn’t flop around once finished. You may choose to glue the sheet (card stock or not) to a piece of cardboard before starting. While we recommend this, it’s not necessary.


  1. Start by wrapping a square of tissue paper around the pencil’s eraser, and dip the end into glue.
  2. Using the pencil, press the tissue paper onto the sheet. Children should have a picture of the Assyrian flag handy to use as a guide. We started from the very center of the Assyrian star, working our way out. Don’t worry about getting the pieces to look “right.” As you continue to fill the flag, it will come together.
  3. The red and blue lines might be difficult to replicate using tissue paper. Don’t stress over this—the tissue paper will give them a fun, organic look.
  4. While working, consider talking about the symbolism of the Assyrian flag.
  5. Once finished, allow flag to dry.
  6. Display the piece in your home to celebrate Akitu, or gift it to nana and jedo. Either way, it’s sure to brighten up any room. Smaller versions can be used to decorate a bouquet.

If you give it a try, please be share to share your photos with us! Use #12DaysofAkitu and tag us on Facebook.

Looking for more Assyrian-themed art projects to try with your kids this Kha b’Nissan? Check these out: 

  • Ishtar Gate Mosaic: This unique mosaic-style art activity will give your child the opportunity to recreate one of the most iconic Assyrian sites.
  • Little Scribes: Your child will learn how to write like an ancient Assyrian—on a clay tablet!
  • Assyrian Metalworking: A fun art activity that will give kids a look at an ancient Assyrian industry.

Kha b’Nissan—the Assyrian New Year

Date: March 20, 2017

The first of April marks Akitu—the Assyrian New Year, commonly referred to as Kha b’Nissan. It is the most important Assyrian national holiday, and its celebration is one of the many links between ancient and modern Assyrians.

Kha b’Nissan was not only the first day of the new year, but it also marked the start of Spring. During this time, trees and flowers would begin to bloom again. As such, the holiday was a symbol of revival—a major theme in ancient Assyrian mythology. Many Assyrians viewed this day each year as the “start of a new life.”

In ancient times, the Akitu festival was celebrated for twelve days. According to the ancient calendar, the first of April coincided with the Spring Equinox (March 21). It was only after the Assyrians adopted Christianity and embraced the Gregorian Calendar that the date was moved.

Assyrian mythology tells of a story where the goddess of love marries the vegetation god. Their unity, which occurred during the Spring Equinox, ensured the renewal of life, blessing the Earth with fertility. This myth was central to the Akitu celebrations.

Ancient tablets excavated from the Assyrian homeland detail Akitu festivities as they were celebrated thousands of years ago. The Akitu holiday was the most important event in Assyria each year. Tens of thousands of people from all over the Assyrian Empire would travel to its capitol city, Nineveh, to partake in the magnificent event led by the Assyrian kingship.

Elaborate processions were one of the main feats of the festival. Another custom was the practice of mass marriages. A large number of marriage ceremonies took place on the same day in many different cities across Assyria. Couples were married in groups at a time, and later the brides would pay a visit to every household in their city where they would receive blessings and gifts. These gifts were then shared among the brides of each group.

Fortune-telling and gambling were also big parts of Akitu celebrations, as were poetry and storytelling.

While many of the ancient traditions have been retired, one that has survived is the tradition of Diqna d’Nissan, meaning “the beard of Spring.” Each year, Assyrian women and girls gather flowers and herbs that are then strung from the roof of their homes. Honor this tradition by attending AUAF’s flower workshop

Assyrians worldwide celebrate Kha b’Nissan by way of festivals, parades, and parties. In Australia, a festival is held annually, drawing in tens of thousands of Assyrians and non-Assyrians alike. In Chicago, a parade is held in tribute to the processions in Assyria. In Iraq, similar parades have drawn crowds of 30,000 in years past.

This year, Assyrians will mark 6767 years.

Keep up with our Facebook page over the next 12 days to celebrate Akitu with AUAF.

7 books you need on your shelf

Date: December 12, 2016

The Ashurbanipal Library at AUAF is home to the largest collection of Assyrian texts in the world. You’ll find everything from old publications and newspapers to novels and dictionaries lining our aisles. Anything by Assyrians or about Assyrians—you’ll find at our library. Here are some of our favorite picks we feel should be on the shelves of every Assyrian household:

img_3597English-Assyrian/Assyrian-English Dictionary: The Dawn of Civilization
Simo Parpola
Writing is Humankind’s most far-reaching creation. No other invention has had a longer and greater impact. The history of writing and the history of mankind are synonymous. Everything that happened prior to the invention of writing we label prehistory. Parpola’s unique dictionary covers 13,000 Assyrian entries and 17,000 English entries. It includes words attested in ancient Assyrian texts, plus Assyrian equivalents for all concepts found in a modern dictionary.

img_3604The Assyrian Heritage: Threads of Continuity and Influence
Sargon G. Donabed, Onver A. Cetrez, Aryo Makko
The Assyrian Heritage: Threads of Continuity and Influence is a collection of essays discussing Assyrian culture and identity from language, ritual, symbol, and identity perspectives from the ancient world to the modern day. The theoretical interpretations and methodological approaches covered in the book aim to narrate the past, presence and future of the cultural and linguistic heritage of the Assyrian people. Available on Amazon.


img_3601The Flickering Light of Asia
Joel E. Werda
The Flickering Light of Asia (or the Assyrian Nation and Church) was written by the Rev. Joel E. Warda and published by him in 1924. The book is divided into two parts: (1) The Assyrian Nation and the Great World War and (2) Christianity and the Assyrian Nation. This book was written to enlighten English speaking audiences about the history and plight of the Assyrians and to further their claims for a homeland during the peace conferences following WWI. Available on Lulu. Read the full text online on AINA.

img_3603Assyrians: From Bedr Khan to Saddam Hussein
Frederick A. Aprim
“The greatest catastrophe to visit the Assyrians in the modern period was the genocide committed against them, as Christians, during the Great War. From the Assyrian renaissance experienced when, miraculously, they became the objects of Western Christian missionary educational and medical efforts, the Assyrians fell into near oblivion. Shunned by the Allies at the treaties that ended WWI and after, Assyrians drifted into Diaspora, destructive denominationalism, and fierce assimilation tendencies as exercised by chauvinistic Arab, Persian and Turkish state entities. Today they face the growing clout of their old enemies and neighbors, the Kurds, another Muslim ethnic group that threatens to control power, demand assimilation, and offer to engulf Assyrians as the price for continuing to live in the ancient Assyrian homeland. As half of the world s last Aramaic speaking population has arrived in unwanted Diaspora, some voices are making an impact, including that of Frederick Aprim.” Available on Amazon.

img_3605Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq, and Sudan
Hannibal Travis
Genocide in the Middle East describes the genocide of the Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians of the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It situates these crimes in their historical context, as outgrowths of intolerant religious traditions, imperialism and the rise of the nation-state, Cold War insurgencies and counterinsurgencies, and the global competition for resources and markets at the expense of indigenous peoples. This requires a more thorough investigation of the case law on genocide than has been attempted in the literature on genocide to date, including detailed accounts of the prosecutions of the leaders of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, of Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi officials after Operation Iraqi Freedom, and of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other leaders of Sudan by the International Criminal Court.  Finally, the book explores emerging problems of genocidal terrorism, cultural genocide, and structural genocide due to starvation, disease, and displacement. Available on Amazon.

img_1979Reforging a Forgotten History: Iraq and the Assyrians in the Twentieth Century 
Sargon G. Donabed
Were they simply bystanders, victims of collateral damage who played a passive role in its history? Furthermore, how have they negotiated their position throughout various periods of Iraq’s state-building processes? This book details a narrative of Iraq in the twentieth century and refashions the Assyrian experience as an integral part of Iraq’s broader contemporary historiography. It is the first comprehensive account to contextualize a native experience alongside the emerging state. Using primary and secondary data, this book offers a nuanced exploration of the dynamics that have affected and determined the trajectory of the Assyrians’ experience in twentieth-century Iraq. Available on Amazon only.

img_2277A Collection of Writings on Assyrians
David B. Perley
This book collects the writings of the prominent author, the late David Barsum Perley (1901–1979), who devoted his life to the Assyrian cause. He continuously supported and fought for the rights of the Assyrians. Through his numerous writings, he gave a voice to the situation of Assyrians in their countries of origin in the Middle East. He also vehemently supported the historical Assyrian name, the Assyrian identity and the history of the Assyrians. Available on Lulu only.

All books are available for purchase at The Ashurbanipal Library unless otherwise noted. 

Art for Kids: Ishtar Gate Mosaic

Date: December 8, 2016

The Ishtar Gate is one of the most iconic sites in the Assyrian homeland. Erected during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II, it was the main entrance leading to the city of Babylon. At one point was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Gate was built in honor of the Assyrian goddess Ishtar—the goddess of love, fertility, and war. Built using glazed bricks, it stood nearly 40 feet high. The walls were adorned with depictions of flowers, lions, bulls, and dragons using colored tiles. For this project, we’re zooming in on the famous lion design depicted on the Ishtar Gate.

Our unique mosaic-style art activity will give children the opportunity to reflect on and explore Assyrian heritage. A mosaic is a picture or pattern produced by arranging together small colored pieces of hard material, such as stone, tile, glass—or in our case, paper!



  • Small foam board
  • Scrapbook paper (shades of blue, brown, grey, yellow)
  • Glue stick
  • Black marker
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Crayons or markers
  • Paper-cutter (optional)


  1. Print out the above image to serve as your inspiration. If you look closely, you’ll notice the discoloration that occurred with time. We chose four colors to help recreate this aged look: navy blue, royal blue, light blue, and grey. We also got a few shades of browns for the bottom bricks for the same reason, but only one yellow color (with an orange tint). You’ll need more blue than any of the other colors.
  2. Once you’ve chosen your colors, start by cutting the scrapbook paper into strips. These will be used to create the bricks. We used a paper-cutter for this step, but you can use scissors instead if you don’t have one at home. Try and gauge how many strips you’ll need—we used only one strip of each color and two of the navy blue.
  3. Rip the strips into small pieces. Vary the sizes and the shapes—this will make for a more interesting art process and a cooler final product. Don’t use a scissors for this step, as the irregular, softer tear will result in a more natural look when you start piecing the bits together. Sharp edges won’t give you the same effect.
  4. Now, onto your foam board. Using a pencil and a ruler, draw out a brick design. Try to get the bricks to be about the same size.
  5. Go over the pencil design with a black marker. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect. It won’t matter in the end.
  6. Finally, find a “coloring-book image” of a lion on the internet. We tried googling “roaring lion coloring book page” (and all variations of that phrase), but couldn’t find one we liked, so we went with this one instead. Adjust size as necessary to fit your board, and print it out.


  1. Share the Ishtar Gate image you printed with your children, and allow it to serve as their guide during this project. A quick intro is appropriate here—maybe a few words on Ishtar herself and the magnificent gate that was built in her name. Encourage children to examine the image and share with you what they see in detail.
  2. Give the kids their foam boards, explaining to them that they have to fill in the bricks with the scraps of paper using a glue stick. The bottom row should be brown, as pictured here, and the rest a mix of the blues. Give them free reign here, but the same way that they are taught to color inside the lines, they should try to keep the scraps inside the brick lines. The straight edges on each piece will help them fit the pieces in. Pieces can (and should) overlap one another. Some white space is okay.
  3. Once their board is filled, kids should turn their attention to their lion. You can choose to bring him to life with the same paper-mosaic process, but we’ll be honest—that’s a little ambitious. Kids will likely be tired at this point. We simply used crayons to color ours. Once done, cut him out.
  4. Using a glue stick, attach the lion to the foam board. Make sure his feet line up with the brown bricks. The end result is awesome.


  • For younger kids, consider a larger foam board and larger scrap pieces. Small bits like the ones pictured here may prove too daunting a task for the little ones.
  • Swapping the foam board for construction paper or card stock works just as well if you’re trying to minimize costs.
  • Look at other images of the Ishtar Gate for other variations—i.e. Maybe try to recreate the flower design as opposed to the lion.
  • If doing this in a group or classroom setting, hang all of the designs together to create a wall.
  • If you’re trying to save time (or if your child generally loses interest quickly), consider tracing the lion on the board and instruct children to fill only the blocks outside its shape.