Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Osani Circle Game

Habari!

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 Placement....so 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
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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.

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7 comments:

  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

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  2. I loved that beautiful story.

    Loved the site.

    CONGRATULATIONS.

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

    GOD BLESS YOU ALWAYS.

    Note: Translation (Portuguese to English) of Goolge

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

    SPECTACULAR.

    And it means even more.

    VISIT AND JOIN MY SITE (WHICH HAS AS A PURPOSE Liturgical - I AM A CATHOLIC), BUT WE ARE ALL CHILDREN OF THE SAME FATHER, WHO MADE HEAVEN AND EARTH.

    KISSES.

    SUCCESSES.

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

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  5. Please use the photo as seen on my site, http://www. connectingdotz.com, 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...

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    Replies
    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!

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  6. moving, meaningful wonderful thank you

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