Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Osani Circle Game


Most of the time, things that are posted and re-posted on Facebook aren't all that great and I'm like "sheesh, what a waste of cyber-space!", but once in awhile, there are some gems (like last week's post Make It Count).

By way of my cousin David (thank you David!), I was introduced to this story. There's actually a series of stories attached with the photograph, so I've shared all three below. While the one that is most widely circulated is not East African, I think it speaks volumes to not only the values and morals of Africans in general. However, after doing a little research, the Osani Circle Game is actually played and practiced just on the western shores of Lake Tanganyika, which might be the closest body of water to my Worldteach it's definitely 'closer to home' than I imagined!

Regardless of which story moves you the most, they all maintain a similar trope. Loyalty, and success and/or failure as a group becomes more important than the goals and/or possibilities of any one individual. In Kenya, my friends and I always used to say "tunakaa pamoja" which means both 'we stay together' and 'we stay as one'.

Can you imagine how much better the world would be if everyone lived by this motto?

Mpaka Baadaye,
- Mwalimu M

The story with the photograph:
 (as shared on Facebook)

"Today I read a story about an anthropologist who proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that who ever got there first won the sweet fruits. When he told them to run they all took each others hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they had run like that as one could have had all the fruits for himself they said: Ubuntu, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?"

* Ubuntu in the Xhosa culture means "I am because we are".

The story in the photograph:
(The Osani Circle Game)

Efé children of the Ituri Forest in Zaire (Rep. of Congo, central Africa) begin the Osani game by sitting in a circle, feet touching, all connected. Each child in turn names a round object like the sun (oi), the moon (tiba), a star (bibi) an eye (ue) and then goes on to name a figurative expression of “round” like the circle of the family, togetherness, a baby in the womb, or the cycle of the moon. As players fail to come up with a term that is “circular” they are eliminated from the game. Eventually, only one remains. Tradition has it that this player will live a long and prosperous life.

The story behind the photograph:
(as told by Susan, from Connecting Dotz)

Belgian adventurer, naturalist, humanitarian and art collector Jean-Pierre Hallet was born in 1927, son of the Belgian painter Andre Hallet who lived in the Congo. At six years of age, Jean-Pierre left his Efé friends to attend school in Europe. (By that time, he was already the height of an average adult native). He returned at age 21, 6’5”, with a degree from the Sorbonne in Agronomy and Sociology. 

Jean-Pierre became a blood brother of the Lega, Tutsi and Nande tribes, and was initiated as a Massai warrior. When I met him in 1984 (after seeing Osani in a magazine and calling the publication to track him down)  I was immediately struck by his passion for the Efé.  He told me he spoke 17 African dialects and had traveled in Africa extensively. But it was the Efé people, the so-called “Pygmies”, that captured his heart, and he spent most of his life in their service.  In 1974 he began The Pygmy Fund with the mission of saving the Efé from extinction and preserving their way of life, with self-reliance and dignity. His persistence and dedication led to a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.

As he stood before me, one-armed (having blown off the other arm while dynamite fishing in 1955 at Lake Tanganyika) he was a most impressive presence.  When he told me of his mission to provide seeds, tools, medicine and farming methods I knew I had to help, and agreed to write a grant proposal.  It brought in twenty-five thousand dollars he used to bring winged bean farming to the Efé. 

Jean-Pierre explained that this image, his one and only of this traditional game, was taken during the 60’s.  I sort of fell in love with the Osani circle; it drew me in, and reminded me of my fundamental connection to the earth, to the natural changes that occur in life, to a desire for community and a deep respect for traditions that carry such sensibility and wisdom.  I felt the photo spoke, instantly, to everything I cared about. And I could see it moved others the same way.   So…  I hung it on my wall.

Decades passed.  When in L.A. I  would visit Jean-Pierre’s shop which carried African art and artifacts.  I would buy a few beads, and we’d talk. And then one day I acted on impulse:  after 25 years of friendship I called Jean-Pierre to acquire the Osani exclusive rights, with the hope of making this wonderful image more accessible. My call came on the very day he was diagnosed with terminal leukemia.

It is with great sadness I must report that Jean-Pierre Hallet passed away only 90 days later (January 2004). He was truly larger than life in every respect – a remarkable man.



  1. This picture and story moved me when I fisrt saw it on David's FB.. I instantly knew that you would love it and asked him to share it with you! With it, I also better understood the WHY of what you are doing in Africa... because of WHO you are and what is in your heart.. the picture spoke volumes to me as only a mother could understand. Mama Yangu

  2. I loved that beautiful story.

    Loved the site.


    I'm sharing your picture and your facebook page, but via google translation.


    Note: Translation (Portuguese to English) of Goolge

  3. I neglected to mention that what struck me was the picture at the beginning.


    And it means even more.




  4. i want coment to this blog but i cannot succes speak english bicause i from indonesia ,,But Succes to you broter

  5. Please use the photo as seen on my site, http://www., which includes rights attribution and my URL. This is urgent, otherwise posting the photo is considered copyright infringement. Linking to ConnectingDotz lets your readers know that cards and posters of this wonderful image are available.
    You know, the story of Ubuntu, while lovely, is not connected with this image. ... though I included it in my card line which features words from around the world which express universal sentiments not found in English.... it's a fabulous word (and worldview)... truly.
    Thanks for your appreciation of this Osani photo..but please, respect the fact that this image is also my business, and Facebook does not always provide the whole story...

    1. I apologize for the lack of attribution to your photograph because I actually got it from another site off of Google, but I've changed it now!

      The series of stories that have come to be connected to the photo are incredible in their own right although I realize they are not entirely accurate.

      Thank you so much for bringing it to my attention, and I wish you and your business the best of luck!

    2. very ironic that capitalism would boast of 'owning' such and image. we humans can indeed be quite callous...

  6. moving, meaningful wonderful thank you

  7. Hello everyone, i am here to share my testimony on how i conceived my baby. i have been married to my husband for 12years without no issue.i had problems with my in-laws even my husband started to have new affairs aside our marriage. it was a very terrible thing to bear. i became a laughing stock among my pear, i prayed and fasted and nothing happened. i was now seen as always unhappy.i was even ready to pack out of my marital home and stay on my own because my husband was not given me any attention that i needed from him. i decided to focus on my job and try to live happy on my own. on this faithful day, i decided to check the internet for updates on healthy living and i came across a story of a woman called mercy, saying that Dr aza helped her to conceive a baby. i decided to give him a try because this has been my greatest problem in life. today i am a proud mother with a son. words will not be enough to explained what this man did for me.i am a happy mother,i know there is someone in same condition and you feel there is no way. i urge you to contact him. This is the solution to every single mother around the globe. distance is not a barrier, he will surely make your dreams come trough. contact him today via email: ( you contacts him with his via number +2348107155060

  8. It is been said that one good turn deserved another that is the reasoning why i am using this medium to thank Dr.Ogudugu for his assistance during my time of hardship in my relationship. But looking at it from this angle that Dr.Ogudugu has saved my relationship by casting a spell for me which brought my lover within period of 48 hours, What really shocked me emotional was that my lover has been more romantic since the help of Dr.Ogudugu. In order to do a lot of people huge favor i will write down the details of Dr.Ogudugu via email

  9. I have been suffering hard Shipley from HIV / AIDS since 6 years now, and i happen to have 2 kids for my husband, and now we cannot proceed to have another kids all because of my disease and now i have to do all what a human like i and my husband can do just to get my disease healed, i have went to several places to seek for help not even one person could ever help, until i melt a comment on the daily news paper that was commented by Ms Claudia about how this powerful traditional doctor help her get cured of the disease (HIV- AIDS) "my fellow beloved" i firstly taught having a help from a spiritual traditional healer was a wrong idea, but i think of these, will i continue to stress on these disease all day when i have someone to help me save my life? "so i gather all my faiths and put in all interest to contact him through his Email address ( so after i have mailed him of helping me to cured my disease, he respond to me fast as possible that i should not be afraid, that he is a truthful and powerful doctor which i firstly claimed him to be. So after all set has been done, he promise me that i will be healed but on a condition that i provide him some items and obeyed all he said. I did all by accepting his oracle fact and only to see that the following week DR ojoka ::mail me on my mail box that my work is successfully done, he sent me the medicine through DHL I took the medicine as prescribed by him and 7 days later he ask for medical test i was first shocked and later arise to be the happiest woman on earth after i have concluded my final test in the hospital by my doctor that i am now HIV-Negative. My papers for check are with me and now i am happy and glad for his miraculous help and power. With these i must to everyone who might seek for any help, either for HIV cure or much more to contact him now at this Email:( "sir thank you so much for your immediate cure of my disease, i must say for curing my disease, i owe you in return. Thanks and be blessed sir .My name is lizzy Dixon His Email address is( or call or add him on whatsapp +2348144172934
    (1) herbes
    (2) hiv
    (3) als
    (4) dick enlargement
    (5) hepatitis B
    (6) ALOPECIA
    (7) CANCER,
    (8) DIABETES,
    (11) IMPOTENCE,
    (13) DIARRHEA
    (14) ASTHMA..…

  10. How I Got My Husband Back...........

    My Names is Monica Brown ,AM from United states .i never believed in love spells or magic until i met this spell caster once when i went to Switzerland in June last year on a business summit i meet a man called Dr Osuko, is powerful he could help you cast a spells to bring back my love s gone misbehaving lover looking for some one to love you bring back lost money and magic money spell or spell for a good job i m now happy & a living testimony cos the man i had wanted to marry left me 4weeks before our wedding and my life was upside down cos our relationship has been on for 3 year i really loved him, but his mother was against me and he had no good paying job so when i met this spell caster, i told him what happened and explained the situation of things to him at first i was undecided,skeptical and doubtful, but i just gave it a try and in 6 days when i returned to taxes my boyfriend (is now my husband ) he called me by himself and came to me apologizing that everything had been settled with his mom and family and he got a new job interview so we should get married i didn’t believe it cos the spell caster only asked for my name and my boyfriends name and all i wanted him to do well we are happily married now and we are expecting our little kid and my husband also got a new job and our lives became much better in case anyone needs the spell caster for some help his email address: