Nkompon' Life


On some days, this was my schedule:

8:00 am – Wake up and play
9:00 am – Have breakfast
9:05 am – Go back to play
12:30 pm – Have lunch
12:40 pm – Go back to play
6:30 pm – Go back home

ENkomponi we played hard. Moreover, our playground wasn’t just our backyards – it was the whole Nkomponi. In fact, some of the games we played required the whole village for space. What kinds of games required this much space?

One of these we simply called Impi, “War.” We were quite inventive. We made little toy guns out of pieces of plank and tough elastic bands. The gun’s power came from these elastic bands, which shot little bullets that were equally ingenious. The bullets were either little rings made out of wire or clipped pen barrels. Depending on how tough the elastic band was, and on how far the target was, those things could sting! Indeed, it was dangerous, especially if you were hit in the eye, or if you were very close to a “machine gun.” Just like in a war, there were sides to the game. The different sides were determined by area. In a small war, the “enemies” could be just neighbors. In a larger one, such as one fought over the whole village, the enemies were blocks of houses. Sometimes, the war was East vs. West – basically half of iNkomponi versus the other half. War time usually began at dusk, and you had to walk around carefully after that – carrying your gun. Even if your parents had just sent you across the road.

A drawing of the gun. I wish I could show the real thing, but the kids longer make them.

A drawing of the gun. I wish I could show the real thing, but the kids no longer make them.

Only boys played Impi but, of course, it wasn’t just the boys who had fun. The girls did too. They had this game called “umam’tshayana” (which, if literally translated, means “a game of hitting each other”). Boys often played the game too. The game is essentially like dodge ball. The difference is that you don’t always stay in the line of fire; that is, between the two opposite people throwing a ball to-and-fro trying to hit you. You just have to run across whilst dodging the ball, your destination being a little “safe box” on the other end. If you get hit, you’re out. If you don’t, you keep running until you’ve crossed a certain number of times – at which point you would have won. The fun part was trying to dodge the ball. What acrobatics we saw! People would jump up like frogs or like those Kung Fu fighters that we loved to watch. The other fun part was getting hit. Some girls had a reputation for hitting hard, something we called “ukuvayindela.” It was so amusing to see a person jump into the air like a gymnastic frog only to fall back clutching they stomach after getting hit hard. The ball was usually made of plastic but you did feel it. There are so many intricacies to the game, but I won’t bore you with them. If only I had video.

Impi and uMam’tshayana are only two of the many, many games we played. I won’t try to describe any more games – not even soccer, by far the most popular – but you can check out my little sister’s awesome post “Boys Will Always Be Boys” for some more.

All these playtime activities usually had ring leaders – older boys and girls. Half of them were bullies. I’ll tell you more about them next time. Let me know what you think in the comments.


15 thoughts on “NKOMPON’ LIFE: Play Time

  1. post a ….post b ,signald e startn f mam’tshayana ,kkk boys Zim rily gt sme gymnastics wonder y we nt makin t 2 the olympics…..


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