Playing Games With South African Children – African Ubuntu


Every week I had the chance to take a stroll to St Vincent's for a visit and some play time. There were several games played, but my favorite to remember included common stones and quick reflexes. Rock games are fun … if you have fast eye-hand co-regulation, but I learn from the children of St Vincent's that even if you can not, the rules can be bent.

In the shade, on the pavement, I'm sitting with three sets of sturdy legs and dusty bare feet that are adjusting and folding for a better advantage position. There is a scraggly, uneven circle drawn with a pebble, nature's chalk, at the center of our group and each contantant is guarding a pile of rocks strategically placed next to her speedy draw hand.

Up goes a single stone, tossed at a practiced and calculated height and into the circle to go the pile of rocks. The stone is caught, tossed up again and all the rocks in the center are raked out, except one. The tossed stone lands victoriously back into the hand … hopefully. These four steps are all done with the same hand, no switching allowed. The single left over stone is grouped as score. This game is very similar to "Jacks" but seems infinitely harder.

Hushed voices are remarking on the success of each attempt and all eyes are concentrated on the circle and stones.

It's my turn … if I remember correctly Mario Cart was easier-do you have this? No. The toss up, hands frantically groping for rocks-do I look at the pile or the stone in the air? Stone landing-ooops-I thought my hand was faster than that. A second attempt; throwing the stone higher for more air time does not produce desired results-I think I lost my stone over there somewhere.

I am trying again for good measure but still my hand is no better and just as clumsy. There are twinkles in the eyes watching me, a short decisive conversation among my contenders and a sudden shift in the game from throwing a stone up and catching it to throwing up an imaginary stone and pretending to catch it.

I am laughing in sheepish appreciation of such a gesture, especially because there are no questions as to whether or not the aces I'm playing with or will not participate in this new variation. Around the circle each girl takes her turn moving the rocks in and out of the circle and pretends to throw and catch this other imaginary stone. The game continues on, now that the playing field is level for everyone involved. What helps me is good enough for everyone else too. An example of African ubuntu.


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