The Importance of Children’s traditional songs and games.

One aspect of Indigenous Knowledge Systems

Indigenous (Indigenus – f. Latin) Born in a country or native of a country.

Indigenous knowledge is inherited information embedded into a particular culture. Since creation, our ancestors have been using the environment for every decision they needed to make for the sake of their community. They needed various skills to endure their harsh conditions.

Adaptation skills were a must for survivability. They needed to adapt to the new economic, political, environmental and spiritual system they had to face. They also required observant skills to understand the importance of nature for their current and future generations. Through those experiences, they developed individual knowledge systems.

Knowledge (Knowen – f. Middle English) To know or recognize.

Indigenous Knowledge (IK) doesn’t have a date or place of origin because it’s part of who we are. It tends to be unique and attach to a particular culture or civilization. However, there may be many similarities between IK’s among societies and civilizations. Although IK doesn’t have a root, it does adapt, evolve, and develop throughout the millennia and it doesn’t remain static.

Different IK systems share a sense of right and wrong as well as how nature falls under our responsibility. Their sense of morality dictates the duty we have with our communities, by providing the proper resources they need and by keeping them safe from danger. It is the lived experience of people in each area that marks the difference among systems.

System (Systema – f. Greek) A whole compound of parts.

All aspects of life remain interconnected within the Indigenous Knowledge. The world is an integral system, and IK incorporates all those features of life – spirituality, history, cultural practices, and social interactions. Before the writing process was common between civilizations, all these features, along with the community’s history, and fundamental beliefs were passed down from generation to generation by oral methods of storytelling like songs and stories.

After centuries of migration, elders kept teaching those features to their offspring, but they also taught them about their past and their roles among the community through games. The essence of those games has remained the same throughout the years and across the lenses of different cultures.

Although those games assume different names depending on the communities or places, they are wholesomely similar in characteristics. Through songs and games, children learn essential life skills about their environment and their role in protecting it, and most importantly, they learn about their history and culture.

Game (Gamen – f. Middle English) To play while enjoying

An example of that is the game “Mahumbwe” which is passed down through civilizations by the Zimbabwean culture. The game consists of building a family with the essential components (mom, dad, children, grandparents, sibling, etc.)

Every player has different sets of rules they have to respect throughout the game. Through the scope of the IK system, the purpose of the game is to give the children an opportunity to run a family by their sense of morality. The game is similar to “House,” a game played in the American continent.

Another game is “Ayo-Ayo”. Although it originated in Nigeria, through migration, the game evolved and is now present in neighboring countries with other names like Mancala (Ghana), Endodoi (Kenya) and Aware (Benin), but the essence and the rules remain the same.  

Ayo-Ayo is an abstract strategy game where each player must strategize and try to think of their opponent move in order to win the other player’s territory. This game gives players an opportunity to think like a leader and to make the right decision based on their intuitions. In fact, elders used the game to test their future leaders.

In preparation for celebrating Black History Month, Genius Plaza has been sharing some interesting facts and information about the culture, landscapes, and games that shaped some of our Career Champions’ childhoods, and how their Indigenous Knowledge system sculpted who they are today. We hope you enjoy it and it ignites the genius in you.

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