Screenshot of Creativity in Play Blogtalkradio

Playtime in Africa is on the radio! Board member and international representative Amowi Phillips, along with volunteer Rachel Phillips, sat down with the hosts of Creativity in Play to discuss the inspiration behind Playtime in Africa, reconnecting with our Ghanaian culture of play, and why it’s so important to design cities with children in mind. Listen to the archived interview here!

Creativity in Play is hosted by Mary Alice Long, PhD., and Steve Dahlberg, in partnership with the International Centre for Creativity and Imagination and the National Creativity Network. The show explores the importance of creativity, play, and imagination across societies. Want to learn more? You can access all archived episodes of Creativity in Play online!

We plan to bring you regular highlights from our Pinterest boards, which are kept active by a team of ‘virtual volunteers’ in the USA and Ghana. We have our partners Friends of Mmofra to thank for recruiting and managing student ‘pinners’ on our behalf!

Anancy's Family Reunion, by Eva Greene-Wilson Six Ananse Stories, by S. Y. Manu

Pinned to: Everything Ananse

This week we’re breaking with tradition: in honour of the recent Anancy Festival 2013, you get two pins for the price of one!
The Anancy Festival celebrates the global importance of Kweku Ananse, the cunning spider-man whose roots lie in West African folklore. This year it was held simultaneously in Ghana, Jamaica and five locations in the US.
Needless to say, Mmofra got heavily involved with the Accra event – check out our full report, which includes some fantastic pictures.
For our pins, we’ve chosen a modern ‘Anancy’ book from a Jamaican-American author and an older ‘Ananse’ book from a Ghanaian author.
Anancy’s Family Reunion is the work of writer and Socamom blogger Eva Greene-Wilson, who hosted the Washington, D.C. edition of Anancyfest.
Instead of retelling older stories, the book creates an original one in the Jamaican tradition. It is available through Amazon in both print and digital formats.
S. Y. Manu’s Six Ananse Stories collects several classic Ananse narratives, and was published here in Ghana in 1993. Like may older Ghanaian publications, it is now a rarity – we found second-hand copies on sale for $40 and over.
Together, these two books show that the Anancy/Ananse tradition includes many different interpretations, and has room for new ones too. That’s just one of the reasons why it continues to thrive.
See you at Anancy Festival 2014!
Follow our Everything Ananse Pinterest wall for book covers, illustrations, videos and more.

On June 8, over a hundred children at Mmofra Foundation’s language club welcomed “Jamaican Anancy”, on a “visit to Accra” to reconnect with his cousin Kweku Ananse!

Children’s activities on this busy afternoon included making and flying their Jamaica – Ghana paper airplanes, and autographing a big map locating the two countries across the Atlantic Ocean.

Anancyfest at Mmofra Foundation 2013
Ruth Kwakwa, a Jamaican living in Ghana and co-founder of the Anancy festival, describes her motivation for organizing the event this way:
I took Anancy for granted as a child, was tickled when I realised that he had international connections, and was awed by the fact that he had such a history. This is a great step towards creating links between Jamaica with West Africa, and Jamaicans and Caribbean people living outside of the Caribbean, with the Caribbean. Anancy is something for our children to hang on to. As an adult, I am also prying into Anancy and wondering what we can do to put a 21st century spin on him to make him more attractive to our children, and more relevant to their world.”
Maisie Howell, also an organizer and animator of the Accra event, joined Ruth in a spirited introduction in which children learned words and songs in Jamaican patois. Before a large backdrop of the  Atlantic ocean, Auntie Ruth and Auntie Maisie did a splendid job helping the  110 children present understand the historical and cultural connection between Ghana and Jamaica.

After 500 eventful years, they said, Jamaican Anancy has gotten tough, resistant and even more wily!  Yet the cultural similarities were clear as an Anancy/Ananse story from each tradition was told.
Auntie Maisie performed a variation of the well-known Bre Anancy and Tiger test of wits, and Benjamin Kwadey, a veteran actor of the national drama company gave us a less typical Kweku Ananse story.

Putting it all in the original traditional context of “Anansegoro” (Ananse Storytelling) were Mmofra Foundation’s in-house master storytellers and performers Ama Buabeng, Akua Florence, Kwabena Ntow, Major and Okyere.

If the attentive listening, the busy signing of the huge map and the enthusiastic learning of Jamaican songs and games are any indication, the celebration of  Anancyfest in Ghana is off to a great start as it joins an increasing number of worldwide venues!
At Mmofra, we’ve been committed to showing children how their cultures have become international.  Our Pinterest board of “Everything Ananse” will continue to be a resource for children and adults interested in all aspects of Ananse folklore.
A big- up to the Jamaican community in Accra who put a lot of effort into organizing, documenting and participating in this event!
Some images in this post courtesy of the Anancyfest Facebook page.

Hot on the heels of our post about Spider Stories, here’s another up-and-coming animation team with its roots in Nigeria.
We looked up Sporedust’s work on Youtube after spotting an interview with them in The Africa Report. Their key video is the short one above. It introduces Chicken Core, which is the team’s flagship creative project.
However, the mysteriously-titled video clip ‘Act 1 stitch‘ suggests Sporedust Media also has an eye on young adult audiences.
Although you can detect the team’s passion for Asian animation in Chicken Core, both clips have a distinct African influence. Here’s what Sporedust’s Shina Ajulo had to say about it in the Africa Report interview.
On their approach to storytelling:

“We want to tell African stories, for Africans. Our children are watching so much derivative stuff. Nollywood copies Hollywood. All the music videos you see of Naija music are just copying what you can see on MTV.”

And on the subject of Chicken Core itself:

“The story itself at its core is African. It’s solid. It has all the characters that African folklore has thrown up.”

Like the creators of Spider Stories, Sporedust are hoping to make their story into a full-length film or a TV series. The race to become ‘Africa’s Pixar’ is on, and we’re enjoying every minute.
Find more African cartoons and graphic novels on our Animated Africa Pinterest wall.

A top tip for those who don’t already know: the graphic novel series Aya has been made into an animated feature film.

The original books offer a wonderfully honest and detailed look at growing up in Abidjan, and the film is no different. Author Marguerite Abouet and artist Clément Oubrerie directed it themselves.

We’re huge fans of Aya and hope the film will win it some new readers. Take a look at the trailer below.

For more African ‘toons, check out our Animated Africa for Kids and Teens wall on Pinterest.

Our last ‘Fida Finds’ post featured Ocean Sole, a Kenyan company that makes cool products out of washed-up flip-flops.
We had some great photos of their toys and sculptures, but now Ocean Sole has sent us some shots of the production process.
Scroll through to see what goes on in the organization’s workshop…

Sorted flip-flops at Ocean Sole's workshop

The raw material

A craftsman prepares flip-flop soles for use at Ocean Sole's workshop

Preparing flip-flops for use

Material from flip-flops is cut and layered in Ocean Sole's workshop

Cutting and layering material

A product starts coming together in Ocean Sole's workshop

A product begins to take shape

Precise knifework brings a small sculpture to life in Ocean Sole's workshop

Precise carving brings a small sculpture to life

A lathe brings detail to a small animal model in Ocean Sole's workshop

A lathe brings detail to a small animal model

A wire skeleton holds this decorative Ocean Sole piece together

A wire skeleton holds this decorative piece together

Softened flip-flop soles are applied to a large-scale mold in Ocean Sole's workshop

Flip-flop soles are applied to a large-scale mold

Twiga, a 15-foot giraffe made for Rome Fashion Week in 2008

The team poses with Twiga, a 15-foot giraffe

You can read the company’s story and browse its catalogue of products at

We plan to bring you regular highlights from our Pinterest boards, which are kept active by a team of ‘virtual volunteers’ in the USA and Ghana. We have our partners Friends of Mmofra to thank for recruiting and managing student ‘pinners’ on our behalf!

Source: via Mmofra on Pinterest

Pinned to: Where Books Live

Plan Canada began selling these portable book packages for Haitian schools following the disastrous 2010 earthquake.

We like the look of the sturdy wood design, but we were also pleased to see Plan thinking about what local readers want:

Given to schools, these boxes are packed with 35 books each, in French and Creole, to engage the insatiable minds of hundreds of children

Hopefully it came stocked with a good mix of books about Haitian life and by Haitian writers. Unfortunately there is no detail on its exact contents – if you know more, do leave a comment below.

Books are wonderful things, but ‘gifting’ them from far away isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Which books will they be? Who decides what the recipients should be reading?

As we were writing this post, we noticed a relevant tweet from an education conference in Windhoek, Namibia:

[blackbirdpie url=”″]

(‘Clark’ is the education and technology commentator Donald Clark.)

To us, ‘appropriate’ content means stories that are meaningful to young readers. Books with characters, environments and situations they can identify with.

We’re big believers in putting local literature into children’s hands. Stories from elsewhere are great, but nothing gets a new reader engaged and excited like seeing their life reflected on the page.

Here in Ghana, the global literacy charity Worldreader distributes Kindles and ebooks to some schools. We have supported (with a bit of constructive criticism!) its efforts to offer more local content – take a look at the catalogue and you’ll see a growing number of African originals.

You’ll also find our own ebook of Voice in the Forest, by Mmofra founder Efua Sutherland.

Positive stuff, but there is always room for improvement. If you’re looking for some African children’s literature yourself, our Pinterest walls are the place to go: we regularly pin new recommendations to our Young Adult and Kids reading lists.

Look out for another featured ‘Pin’ next week…

Another Friday, another pick from the web. We call these Fida (Friday) Finds.

Large Champali Elephant by uniqueco.designs (flipflopiwas)

Have you ever found a lost or discarded flip-flop?

We’re willing to bet the answer is yes. These cheap, practical shoes are worn all over the world, from Californian beaches in the US to downtown Accra here in Ghana.

Ghanaians call flip-flops chale wote, which translates as “My friend, let’s go” – a very poetic way to describe their slip-on-and-go appeal, if you ask us.

The phrase has even inspired an annual street art festival in Accra.

Unfortunately, chale wote can make a mess. They come off easily and wear out quickly. All too often, they end up as trash in a public space.

In coastal areas the problem becomes even worse. The world’s oceans are full of plastic waste, and that includes flip-flops. Lots of them.

Many are washed up on the beaches of Africa, where they spoil scenery, harm wildlife and affect local industries such as fishing.

A bright idea

In 1997, a marine conservationist named Julie Church saw children on Kenya’s Kiwayu island collecting colorful flip-flops and turning them into toys.

Over the next 15 years, she helped turn the children’s instinctive ‘upcycling‘ into a community business.
In the hands of creative Kenyans, those discarded chale wote became desirable things: art, fashion and toys.

Julie’s company Ocean Sole now makes everything from jewellery to large-scale animal sculptures.
As you can see, its products look fantastic – and they help keep Kenya’s beaches clean too.

Flip-flop truck toy by uniqueco.designs (flipflopiwas), on Flickr

Ocean Sole’s work has been:

  • Featured in BBC documentaries
  • Sent to major museums
  • Shown on catwalks
  • Recognised with an Energy Globe Award

If children’s homemade toys can grow into all this, how many potential businesses do you think there are in our Galimoto! gallery?

Here are a few more pictures to feast your eyes on:

Keyrings Assorted

Chamalie Marine Puzzle FIT0051

Medium Champali Planes FIT0026 (Individual)

Photos: Official flickr account of UniquEco Designs / Ocean Sole

We plan to bring you regular highlights from our Pinterest boards, which are kept active by a team of ‘virtual volunteers’ in the USA and Ghana. We have our partners Friends of Mmofra to thank for recruiting and managing student ‘pinners’ on our behalf!

Pinned to: Seating and Shade Structures

Our last Pin of the Week was from Lusaka, Zambia. For our latest we’ve selected a picture from Brighton, some 7,000 miles away in Britain.
They’re very different posts from very different places, but both reflect ideas and principles we want to bring to Playtime in Africa.
The picture shows an outdoor space at Longhill High School. Its winding, colorful seating structure was developed by students in collaboration with artist David Parfitt, who describes the project on his website:

“The need for such an item was identified through design workshops with students, who went on to collaborate with the concept, design and build of the structure. … Where possible, recycled polyethylene was used.”

It ticks a lot of boxes that we like: community-level design, sustainable materials, and bags of visual and physical interest.

  • Community design: When we began our planning work for Playtime in Africa last summer, we did it right here in Dzorwulu. Folks of all ages got involved, including young people who represent the project’s end users.
  • Sustainable materials: This summer we’ll be launching a drive for reclaimed wood. It could be a felled tree on your land or a bookcase you no longer want – if you’re in Accra and have something you think we could use, drop us an email.
  • Visual and physical interest: We’re not planning a bare yard and a basic classroom. PiA is about sensory experiences and exploratory play. We want a multi-level environment filled with color and texture.

It is easy to forget how stimulating a varied outdoor environment is to a curious child. We really like the approach of our supporter Chris Berthelsen, who documents exactly that in his booklet ‘Tokyo at Child Scale’:

As well as checking out the rest of our ‘seating and shade’ Pinterest wall, take some time to explore the gallery of unusual learning spaces that this week’s pin originally came from. It’s packed with ideas, from a brainstorm room with blackboard walls to a gorgeous tree mural for an outdoor teaching environment.

Why is rhyme such an enduring part of children’s literature? Canadian-Ghanaian writer Adwoa Badoe helps to explain its appeal in this video from education site TVO Parents.
Some of Adwoa’s contributions put rhyme in a Ghanaian context, so we’ve transcribed a few highlights at the bottom of this post.

Check the original TVO page to for some book recommendations from the panel. Adwoa’s choices include Atukei Okwai’s A Slim Queen in a Palanquin, which we recently added to our kids’ booklist on Pinterest.
You might also like Tahinta! A Rhyming Play for Children, by Mmofra’s founder Efua T Sutherland. There’s an audiobook sample on the Made by Mmofra page.
The numbers are time references. If you don’t have time to watch the whole video, you can use them to go straight to Adwoa’s sections.
3:25: On why rhyme is effective
“I think that it’s the patterns, and also the fact that you can anticipate what’s going to happen. Everybody wants to belong, and to belong you have to know what’s going to happen.
“I think pattern is just intrinsic to the human soul. Everybody craves it, even when we move. Everything we do has a pattern to it.”
6:45: On rhyme in Ghanaian languages
“Our languages are more rhythm than rhyme. If I think about the songs and the chants [that I grew up with] you would approach rhyme more through repeating a refrain than creating rhymes.
“Now rhyming is more and more common as people are doing hip-hop in Ghana. But before, we would do it by repetition, or by adding sounds like ‘ei’ and ‘o’ to our sentences.
After this Adwoa performs a chant from her book Nana’s Cold Days.
12:50: On learning nursery rhymes in Ghana
“Yes, I did. I think one of the best ways to get into language is to use children’s rhymes. That’s how we learned.
“We knew all those Mother Goose-type poems. I still recite them with my children. I think everyone should have a huge volume of verse and poetry for their children.”