Thursday 9 June 2016

Pastimes And Childhood Games

Hopscotch – Every Nigerian remembers the game of hopscotch from growing up. Hopscotch is an age-old children's game based on the principle of not treading on lines. In Nigeria it is known as 'suwe'. The diagram is drawn in sand, and a stone or a ball of crushed leaves is used as a marker. The rules resemble those in the German game of Hinkspiel. In suwe, if the player's stone is tossed on a line, he/she is out of the game. At the end of the game, the players make drawings in each of the squares. The game is quite unisexual – it is not uncommon to find young boys in primary and junior secondary schools playing alongside their female peers.

Fire on the mountain – Children are arranged into two concentric circles, one with one more member than the other. Upon a signal they begin to run in opposite directions singing "fire on the mountain, run, run, run" until the whistle is blown – "fire is up!" Then each player endeavours to secure a partner from the other circle. The player left without a partner is penalised to do some stunts or asked to squat in the centre of the circle. The elimination process continues until one pair is left, who are then declared the winners. This game has various indigenous names across Nigerian cultures.

Who picks the flag first – Two teams of children play this game. The children are grouped into two equal and parallel formations opposite each other. Children from the opposing teams are paired to numbers, two children per number. An umpire then stands at a distance holding up a flag or cloth. The umpire begins to call numbers. The two children paired to that number begin to run towards the flag. While running, each child is to ensure that he/she is not touched by his/her opponent while they race towards the flag. The player that does not succeed in picking up the flag or that is touched by the other player before returning to his domain (where other teammates are) is thus 'captured' by the other team. The game continues in this manner until all of one team's players are 'captives'. This game has various indigenous names across Nigerian cultures.

Akokoro – This is played by two people (usually boys) using a small snail shell or soft metal sheet shaped like a snail shell. One of the players spins the shell/cone and while it is spinning swipes it or 'cuts' it with a sweeping stroke of the finger to make the base of the cone land flat on the ground. The winning player is usually the player who can successfully make the base of the cone land flat. Unless the cone lands in this manner, a player is unsuccessful. When a player has achieved this feat and the other has not, the player who fails offers his hand to the winning player for a 'strike' – the winner uses the cone to forcefully hit the back of the loser's hand. The game is also known as Okoto.

Ayo – This is played by two players on a rectangular carved board with 12 round pits, 6 on each side. 48 small seeds are shared in fours into each of the 12 holes. Each player takes turns to move seeds from the pits on his side of the board and strives to win more than half the seeds to win the game. The game helps to enhance the quantitative ability of the players as success depends a lot on logic and one's ability to count correctly and manipulate numbers. It is played widely throughout Nigeria. The Ebira people call it Igori.

Ten Ten – In playing this game, girls stand facing each other clapping their hands and moving their legs to a rhythm. The aim of each girl during the game is to ensure that she does not raise the leg directly facing the other girl – which means it is okay for a girl to raise a left leg when the other raises a right leg. Once a girl raises the wrong leg, the other girl scores a point.

Ta lo wa ninu ogba naa? – To play this game, the children form a circle. One of the players stands outside the circle while those players in the circle sing 'ta lo wa ninu ogba naa,' which literarily means in Yoruba 'who is in the garden?' When the song ends, the player outside the circle chooses any of the players in the circle to replace him/her before joining the others in the circle.

Why not draw some lines and remember how it felt to be a child!

*Culled from

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