I FORGOT HOW TO PLAY | Mainstream Blog

I FORGOT HOW TO PLAY



The memories come in fleeting glimpses. Flashes of a past I was once a present participant of. I don't remember the songs we used to sing or the names of all the games we would play, all I remember is the feeling. The feeling of all-consuming joy and energy. It was a feeling of love and community. Surely; this is the very root of what we as adults now call 'ubuntu'.

I am speaking of the traditional games any Zambian, if not any African child born in or before the 1990s' will most likely know. Games such as 'waida' or its variation 'malegeni'- a game in which an elastic or rubber robe is used and widened by poles or two people on each side as players skip or jump in and out of the ropes; games such as 'draft'- played like checkers or chess depending on where you come from, 'shomba wangena'- a game similar to dodgeball but different and africanised, 'nsolo' -this one is difficult and too lengthy to describe, 'water game'- an uncreative name for a game thats incredibly fun; - we would fill up buckets of water and chase each other around the yard threatening to pour water on the slowest person in the group. Or, my personal favorite 😍; a game I never quite mastered 'chiyato' 😓-in this game a small circle would be drawn around small stones and the participants would then proceed to try and collect as many stones as they could by throwing one stone into the air and dragging the others out of the circle before the stone in the air found its way to the ground. The goal was to increase the number of stones taken out of the circle at each level, from one to infinity depending on the player's prowess.

These games were played outside; resulting in a massive neighbourhood tournament during the holidays for the youngest children. It was competitive, it was life or death for my grade 3 self. It was glorious.

Sitting here observing my younger cousins as well as my niece and nephew, 3 years old and 6 years old respectively, I am amazed at their technological advancement. They are both able to use a computer quite accurately and are professionals at playing the educational maths and science games they find on their mother's tablet. 

Do they know how to play shomba wangena I ask? They don't. I am much like my niece and nephew, and so I will not deny the fact that I have lived a life of privilege, I've been exposed to many things such as television, video games and extra-curricular sports and activities that not many regular Zambian children are exposed to.

However, I've realised that as I grew older, the games I once enjoyed when I was seven years old seemed to become of less and lesser importance to me as cartoons consumed my brain. I have nothing against cartoons, in fact; I love them, some can be extremely educational.

The biggest difference between my young niece and nephew and myself is the fact that I at least got a taste of both worlds. I know what our traditional games felt like; and, I know what their experience in front of a television and laptop feels like. They, however, have no idea what type of fun 'shomba wangena' can be. The worst part is, my temporal memory loss on the rules and regulations of the games I used to play, have left me incapable of accurately teaching my niece and nephew how exactly to play said games.

I am embarrassed to say that as I grew older computer games and cartoons stole me away from the games I once held dear to my heart. The best part of the games is that they were ‘all-inclusive’. There was always room for one more, and a new obstacle to overcome with each level one proceeded to. I remember making friends with people from various backgrounds as we bonded over a mutual love of ‘pada’. Pada at least can be found drawn on the many playgrounds of today. However, part of the joy of the game was trailing a stone or stick through the ground to create the borders of the game.

There's nothing wrong with the introduction of new games and technologies, however; a balance is needed. Further reflection has left me wondering how many other young Zambian children are deprived of our ancestral games only because we have forgotten to teach them?

The young children in my family also need to experience what those that came before them have had the chance to experience- the bonds formed from a mutual love of playing outside in the dirt.





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