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Yan-koloba the Game

African Historical Background 

Storytelling has always held a special place in the life of African communities. Stories entertain, but mainly serve as a means to transmit societal values and customs. They are used to educate children about their heritage. Stories are usually told at sunset, so they do not interfere with the necessary labors of the daylight hours. Storytelling in traditional African cultures is an important part of the educational system. It is the time when children and adults gather around a burning fire under the village Boabab Tree to sing and exchange riddles and jokes. Storytelling is an event in which the audience actively participates with questions, comments and discussions, which reinforces the community solidarity. Yan-koloba has always been the most commonly used activity during storytelling gatherings, often accompanied by music and sometimes dance. It was a powerful community building game.

When we think historically of village life, we think of a self-contained, self-sufficient community, one where the responsibilities and rewards of daily life belong to all of its members. Behaviors and actions are based on local values. One of the most important values in African communities is respect for age, which to some degree may cause some participant exclusion, depending on the goal of the activity. In a typical African village, adults and children, females and males do not usually get to play games together. Yan-koloba is the only game that includes persons of all ages, genders and physical abilities.

By playing Yan-koloba, villagers reinforce their concepts of respect and acceptance, trust and responsibility, leadership and teamwork, in a fun and relaxed environment. Parents always take advantage of the Yan-koloba playing time to heighten the teaching of these concepts to their children. The youth always seize this unique opportunity to learn values and village customs in a non-threatening setting, while challenging the dexterity of adults in moving the blocks of rock, the primary Yan-koloba playing tools.

"An elder who dies is like a library that burns"

"The older you are the wiser you must become"

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