Sunday, May 13, 2012

Culture and Sports for School Children

Last week was the culminating activity for the school year for the children in the primary schools here in my town.  The soccer teams of the various primary schools had been playing against each other in a tournament for several months and on Saturday the finalist played for the championship.  On the Thursday before that, however, there were competitions among the schools who wanted to participate in a celebration of Burkinab√® culture.  There were five categories, "playback" (AKA Karaoke), theater, storytelling, traditional dance and modern dance.  Not all schools in the area chose to compete and some competed in only one or two events.  Never the less, there were 24 presentations.   
The event was scheduled to start at 2:00 in the afternoon.  I should have known better than to show up at the scheduled time, but I can't get over my American need to be on time.  I arrived to find a lot of children standing in the shade outside the courtyard of the Mayor's office, where the event was to take place, but there were only three adults in the courtyard.  They knew who I was and laughed, saying that the program would start on African time, that is, later. About 2:30 the kids were admitted to the courtyard, where they tried to find shade to wait in.  A water barrel was brought in and a couple of kids were assigned to spread water on the concrete performance area.  I am still not sure whether the idea was to clean it off or to cool it off.  It must have been really hot from the sun beating down on it.  Here is one of the kids spreading water. 
As an invited guest, I had the privilege of sitting in a chair in the shade of the only tree in the courtyard.  I felt sorry for all those kids standing in the sun for hours. The teachers running the show were clearly ready to start by 3:00, but still we waited. It was not until 4:00, two hours after the announced time for the presentations, that the "important" people showed up and things could get underway. This is the same thing that happened at the Women's Day celebration I wrote about before. I really have trouble getting used to it, and I don't know how these folks decide how late to be.  They know they are not expected to be on time, but there must be some rule of thumb telling them when they really should arrive.
The program began with the "Playback" category. One of the playback/karaoke signers did a song by the Burkinab√® artist, Floby, who sang at the Peace Corps 50th Anniversary celebration.  The young man is one of the polio victims in town. He is unable to walk, so he did his impression of Floby sitting on his feet and received an enthusiastic round of applause.
The stories the kids told the the story competition were generally ones well know to the crowd, sometimes taken from the readers they all used in their classes. The theater presentations were all original, written and planned by the teachers and/or the students themselves.  I was a bit surprised by a couple of the themes.  In one of them, one of the characters was giving bad information about how you get HIV and the other characters corrected him. In the second one, a father refused to send his daughters to school.  One of them went off to Ouaga and later in the play she came home pregnant (with much laughter as the girl came on stage, with a pagne stuffed up under her dress), and finally the man relented, much to the joy of the younger daughter.  Here are the mother and father, with the younger daughter in the background.
Unfortunately, by the time the traditional dance section came on, it was getting dark and the pictures are not very good.  In this group, you can see they were wearing imitation grass skirts over traditional woven pagnes.  There is a lot of hip shaking in traditional and modern dancing here in Burkina.  It has always made me think of Hawaiian hula dancing, and with the grass skirts the similarity was even clearer.

Here are the drummers who accompanied one of the dance groups. The young man with the orange shirt is another of the polio victims who gets to school in one of those three wheeled, hand peddled tricycles I have mentioned. His class-mates helped him get on stage and astride the drum, which he played well, and with enthusiasm.
I have a bit of video, showing a more authentic version of the "bump" dance I was trying to do in the video clip in my blog about music. The head bumping between the boy and girl is how people here greet good friends they have not seen for a while.

I have tried to upload the video unsuccessfully and will try again when I have a better internet connection. Sorry. Here is a photo of one of the bumps that will be on the video when I get it to load.

Hand Ball

In Burkina Faso the boys play soccer and the girls play a game they call hand ball.  It is kind of like ultimate Frisbee in that you try to move the ball down the field but can't move your feet when you are holding the ball. The idea is to throw the ball into the goal, like soccer. The goal is about half the size of a soccer goal, and the field is just the width of a soccer field. Players are not allowed to kick the ball, but the goalie can use both her hands and feet to keep the ball out of the goal. 

In this championship handball game, played in the morning. One of the teams was from a regular primary school, and the second was from "the school of the second chance" called Zod-Neere. It offers another chance to students who did not succeed in the regular school program.  This is how they have decorated the entrance to their school.
Because it is the school of the second chance,, most of the girls were older, and therefore the members of the Zod-Neere team were bigger and much better coordinated than the girls from the other school. The biggest difference, however, was that the Zod-Neere girls worked together, passing the ball between two or three girls who moved down the field together.  The girls from the other school seemed never to know where the other members of their team were and often tossed the ball wildly, hoping one of their teammates would catch it. Not surprisingly, Zod-Neere won by a big margin, 9-3. Here is the goalie for the other team stopping the ball.  Notice that all the girls play barefooted. Also notice that the playing field is dirt and gravel.  Not too comfortable in bare feet.


The final game for boys' soccer was in the afternoon. This was the featured event of the day, and there were many chairs set up for important people. This man brought the sound system and played music to entertain the crowd while they were waiting. Actually he was at the cultural performances on Thursday and at the handball tournament in the morning as well. He has a CD player, but most of the music is on his laptop.
In the afternoon we really appreciated him because, like every event important people were supposed to attend, they were very late.  This time they were so late that the coordinators of the program actually did not wait for them!  I was surprised, because I assumed you always waited.  In this case, if they had not started the program, it would have been dark by the time things finished, so they went ahead.
The members of the two teams had been warming up.  They were called to come stand in front of the audience and they had to stand there for about a half an hour while several people made speeches. Not a very good way to be ready to play, in my opinion. Here they are, listening to the speech of the inspector of the school district, who is my official supervisor here. Notice the two girls accompanying him, like to women at the women's day celebration.
This picture shows what the field is like and how they make the sidelines and mid field line, by digging a small trench and putting a different colored dirt in it.  The result is that the field is even less smooth, but that's the way they do it here.
 Here is one shot of the boys playing.  As you can see, they also play bare foot (OUCH!!!)
Neither of the boys' teams appeared to have had coaching like the teams my grandsons play on in America.  The players here seemed to have no plays worked out and did not seem to have any idea about where their other team members were.  When they had a chance, they tried to kick the ball as high and as far as possible. Because the ball sailed down the field wildly, the people waiting there generally tried to bring it back to earth with a header. This technique did not give them much control over where the ball went and the ball was up in the air a lot more than I have seen it in American games.  In other words, the game was pretty much a free for all.  The Zod Neere boys won, but the score was only 1-0 due to good work by the goalie of the losing team.

1 comment:

  1. Happy Mother's Day Jan! I'm looking forward to watching the traditional dance video when you are able to upload it.

    Kind regards,
    Bill O'Connor