Being a child in the early 90s was so much fun trust me. We had our own problems but it wasn’t as bad as it is now.
Technology has really made things faster and easier to do but maybe it would have been better if it stayed only in the West.
Bringing technology and certain western cultures to Africa is not a bad idea, but truth be told, some of these stuff are just not meant for us.
Imagine Africa with all its original traditions and cultures modified to suit this 21st Century. We have rather buried our traditions and adopted other people’s, which does not suit us. A few cultural and traditional practices at the community, institutional and national levels may have survived the test of time.
But the more domestic ones are dying due to lack of effective communication from generation to generation.
Traditions like pouring of libation, customary marriage rites , naming ceremonies and others have survived, but with some western touches. But, some others have been totally scrapped and it is gradually erasing our identity as Africans.
Where is that vibrant extended family system? It was very solid in the nineties. Growing up, I was taught that a child belongs to the whole family and not just the parents that conceived it. Every elderly person could correct me whenever I went wrong.
We could easily and readily count on other families for support in so many ways. It prevented loneliness and its possible consequences like suicide. Now, children hardly know the members of their extended family.
I miss those days when I could go to my aunties and uncle’s homes for holidays. Those days when I could go visit grandma and grandpa in the village, meet my cousins, uncles, aunties and other family members.
I could go and stay for a whole vacation. There, I got to know most of the members in the family. I learned more about our culture from such visits. I could ask granny a thousand questions in a day. Most children of today have little or no knowledge about our culture, some don’t even know where they come from. Hardly do you see parents taking their children to their villages lately.
Now the norm is that you migrate into a big city, get married, give birth and keep your family in the city. Now most marriage rites and naming ceremonies are performed in the cities.
People hardly go to their villages for Christmas and other festivities so the only time you go to your village is when there is a funeral and even with that, you don’t go with your children for the fear of ‘witches’.
But I thought witches and wizards fly – or? Maybe I’m the only one who has heard stories of witches travelling to America and other places to operate. So why should someone refuse to take his children to his/her village because he/she fears witches might harm them? I just don’t get it. Can’t the witches fly to the city?
I dare say that the breakdown of the extended family system is causing an increase in crime rate. My reason is that, with the extended family system, people could easily share their problems and get help.
But now people try to help themselves and a lot of them end up doing untoward things that get them into trouble. Some even commit suicide out of loneliness and the feeling that no one cares. Men butcher their wives with the least suspicion of infidelity.
Uncles and aunties hardly help in taking care of their nieces and nephews. Children whose parents are incapable of taking care of them are forced to go onto the streets to hustle and find something to take care of themselves and their parents. Now the courts are being flooded with unsolved cases because little issues, which could have easily been solved by family elders and traditional leaders are all in court.
We are gradually killing the extended family system. Each person thinks about just himself, his wife and children. Of course, we all know how hard it is to care for even just one’s nuclear family, but let’s think of the many benefits we got from the extended family system and modify some of these things than scrapping them off totally.
Our traditional games have also faded away. Urbanisation and modernisation have eradicated so many interesting and mind-challenging games we used to play. Now children would rather play computer games, surf the internet and watch indecent movies and be on social media 24/7 without learning anything.
There are many outdoor and indoor games that we played by children. I remember games like ‘piloloo’ was one popular outdoor game in the 90s. Just like hide and seek, but this time a number of objects are hidden. The one who hides the items will shout ‘piloloo’ and the players are supposed to search for them. If you found the hidden objects, you picked only one and ran to a designated point. The others would have to keep searching till they each find the hidden objects and run the distance. The last person to find and run is kicked out. It continues that way till the ‘last man standing.’
I miss playing ‘ampe’ with my friends at home and at school during break time. I organised my friends for ‘ampe’ always because I wanted to be the leader of one of the groups. ‘Ampe’ is a game which requires no equipment to play. It is played mostly by girls.
It takes different forms. To play this very one, which we usually termed ‘mother-mother’, two leaders are selected to lead each group if there are more than two people playing.
The leaders start by jumping up at the same time, clapping their hands, and thrusting one foot forward when they jump up. If they both have the same foot forward, which we termed ‘ostraighty’, then one group wins a point. If they are different, also termed ‘Okontor’, then the other player gains and plays against the remaining players of the other group.
‘Mother don’t get, how can the children get’ – this is a song usually sang for leaders whose groups lose. But there is another form which has the players in a circle; here, the leader moves along the inside of the circle, playing against others in turns, this one is termed as ‘bobo kosi tire’. The last form is when just two people play, they keep score until a certain number of points determines a winner.
We could cook using little foodstuffs we brought from our homes. My mother bought a set of small cooking utensils for me. We set fire under trees or at people’s backyards and prepared our own food. Even though we couldn’t eat the food prepared, it served as an avenue for practicing the little cooking skills we learned from our mothers.
We also gathered mostly at night, form circles or semi circles and sang for each person to dance in the middle of the circle; or we held hands, sang these songs and jumped round. I still remember songs like
‘Adisco boys and girls, Adwoa maame ee rice water, yeee yeee rice water…
One popular song known to almost every child in the 90s was –
Robert Mensah goal keeper number one,
Aka nansa na wako aburokyiree
Kwasia bi te ho, ompe neho asem
Wakofa pentoa, ode awoo nemfee
Adekyeeye neyere wawoo..
Neba no de sen, Kofi Anto
Kofi Anto wanto ne maame
Kofi Anto wanto ne papa!
I found out that Robert Mensah was a former Ghanaian international footballer. He was best known for his exploits at Asante Kotoko F.C. He was stabbed with a broken bottle after an altercation in an akpeteshie bar called Credo, at Tema (Community 7) and died days later at Tema General Hospital at 02:30am on 2 November 1971. A sports stadium in Cape Coast has been named after him.
But beyond the outdoor games, there are quite a number of indoor games that kids used to enjoy as well. ‘Oware’ is an indoor game from the Mancala game family played in traditional African societies. It is a game played by two. A total of forty-eight stone-like seeds are spread into a twelve holes on a wooden board. Both parties play with the aim of capturing more seeds than the opponent. One needs to think very deep and make calculations to be able to win this game. It also started fading but thanks to Komla Nyomi, we now have this game on play store. We need more of such ideas and people to modify our dying traditional games.
My mother grew up in the village and they played the typical traditional games. According to her, most towns did not have electricity during their time so the only source of entertainment for children were these games. She said it was livelier on full-moon nights.
The interesting thing is to each of these games, there were rules and anyone who accepted to play the games had to obey the rules. Some of these games instilled investigative skills in children and also broadened the minds. The more active ones like “lion in the way”, “tag of war”, “ampe” and others also helped children to exercise regularly and burn fat. But they are gradually being replaced with social media and computer games, which make children lazy and physically weak. We probably need some of the wit of Kwaku Ananse to get back to our roots and restore the good things we have thrown away.
I could not forget the famous Kwaku Ananse stories. My mother heard Ananse stories. Grandma used to tell me some of these stories. I heard about Ananse from her. The word “Ananse” is Akan for ‘spider’ and “Ananse stories” are tales believed to have originated from the Ashanti people in Ghana.
Ananse is mostly used to depict cunningness, trickery and wise characters in stories. The many limbs of the spider and its web are always an advantage for him in those stories.
But sometimes he was too wise for himself and got into trouble. We learnt how to be smart and how trickery and cunningness could get us into trouble. A little of that for this generation of children will not be a bad idea at all.