Tim Hull‘s wonderful videos on children’s games from different countries were made to support the work of the international play organization Right To Play.
Ampe is still a very popular game for girls (and a few boys too) everywhere in Ghana.  It’s a combination of a good physical workout, social bonding and strategy.
In addition to his short film (about 15 minutes) on the energetic Ghanaian game of ampe (AM-pay),  Tim’s Globaltimoto journey in search of games around the world showcases children at play in other African countries like  Morocco, Namibia and Mali.
Detailed notes on the game are here.  The film is particularly interesting because it includes an oral history of the game.
Teams of girls from Kwamoso Junior Secondary School are featured in a mini-league tournament of ampe.
It includes an explanation of the rules, some strategies for winning, and a demonstration which ends with 15 year-old Sandra Ampofoah of Mampong-Akuapem emerging as the excited overall champion.
Sandra explains that it’s a matter of studying patterns of play, anticipating your opponent, making snap decisions and having very quick reflexes.
100 year-old Madam Rose Animah and 88 year-old Madam Elizabeth Kyei are the real stars of the film.  They relive their glory days as champions of the game when it was a serious competitive sport between the ampe “companies” of several villages.
In the “old days”, crowds of spectators would come to watch the tournaments, which could go on for as long as two or three days.  There was even a special dress code, designed to give plenty of room for jumping and throwing out your feet!
Today ampe is a schoolyard and children’s playground activity rather than a community event, but it has survived, unlike many of the “ancient games” lamented by Rose Animah and Elizabeth Kyei.

ampe game CFerber photostream

Primary School children playing ampe. CFerber Photostream on flickr

What You Can Do
Tim Hull’s global journey to find, observe and document games continues.  You can make a donation here.

Today is Chinua Achebe’s birthday, and in honor of Africa’s beloved and best known literary Elder, we embarked on a web search for his children’s books.  A few generations of  secondary school students in sub-Saharan Africa have read Chinua Achebe’s classic Things Fall Apart, but not many people are aware that he has written for young readers as well.
Fortunately,  we discovered two that are still in print:  Chike and the River, andHow the Leopard got his Claws.
How the Leopard got his Claws, a children's book by Chinua Achebe
Chike and the River, by Chinua Achebe
Two other books, The Drum and The Flute, are not quite as easy to find these days.  However, we did stumble across a blog which had very good summaries of all four books.  Quite apart from its excellent title, We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie is a blog which concerns itself with children’s books by authors who are better known for their “adult” literature.
We’ll definitely be taking a closer look at that blog, but in the meantime do visit Mr. Achebe’s books there.  We promise it will be worth your while.
The Flute, a children's book by Chinua Achebe
The Drum, a children's book by Chinua Achebe

A successful urban garden supplies organically grown vegetables and herbs from Mmofra Foundation’s site in Accra.  In a unique arrangement with the garden’s owner,  it also serves as a living classroom for our Language Club children.

Urban farm in Accra is living classroom

Language Club children walk through the garden with EdenTree CEO Catherine Krobo-Edusei Benson, October 2011

The garden’s proprietor, Catherine Krobo-Edusei Benson, is the CEO of EdenTree Ltd and one of Accra’s most successful urban farmers.  A long-time supporter of Mmofra, she’s always willing to lead tours of the garden and to teach about the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables.
In the urban garden with Catherine Krobo-Edusei Benson

A sensory experience in the urban garden

EdenTree gardener Iliasu Nuhu cultivates several varieties of greens and a wide range of herbs in soil which has been carefully remediated and organically enriched.  He’s also one of the Language Club’s most consistent volunteers.
Core Foundation Volunteer Illiasu Setting Up Language Club

Iliasu Nuhu setting up books for a Language Club session

The Bessie Head Literature Awards honor the legacy of Botswana’s celebrated writer Bessie Head and encourage the development of local literature.  The competition’s sponsor Pentagon Publishers has established a Bessie Head Series, “devoted to new creative writing in English by Botswana authors”.
In the Children’s Story category, the 2010 award went to Jenny Robson for her story The Right Time.
The Golden Baobab Prize, an African literary award,  recognized three authors from Botswana in 2010.  Mechanic’s Son, by Lauri Kubuitsile won the award for the best children’s book in the 12-15 age group.
On the shortlist for stories written for 8-11 year olds were The Rainmakers of Botalaote by Gothataone Moeng and Lightning and the Thunderers by Lauri Kubuitsile.
Jenny Robson‘s Only the Stones Still Cry was shortlisted in the 12-15 years category.
Lauri Kubuitsile also won the Golden Baobab Prize for best story for ages 8-11 years in 2009, Lorato and her Wire Car.  This book belongs in our July 2011 blog post on African children and the clever toys they make from recycled things!
She is the author of other books for children including Mmele and the Magic Bones.
Other stories by these writers are recognized here.
Mmofra Foundation recomments Lorato and her Wire Car

Araba's Bookshelf, side view   We recently came across a wonderful project over at Paper Tigers,  a blog devoted to multicultural children’s literature. They are traveling “Around the World in 100 Bookshelves,” inviting families to share their home bookshelves and favorite stories. This is a wonderful way to explore children’s literature and encourage reading, and we couldn’t wait to submit our own favorite bookshelf to the list!
Our own Mmofra blogger Araba has kept many of her favorite childhood tales over the years, storing them in a one-of-a-kind handpainted bookcase. There are early picture books, like The Invisible Princess, collections of poetry like Honey, I Love – and of course, who could forget our favorite Voice in the Forest? There are novels from every continent, stories that blend the magic of everyday life with myths and traditional legends, from America (Seedfolks) to Zimbabwe (The Ear, The Eye and The Arm).
Araba's bookshelf, side view
But the books on this shelf aren’t the only ones telling their stories! The bookcase itself is a globetrotter with international roots. These beautiful decorations were painted in Jamaica by artist Tukula Ntama. Do the symbols below look familiar? They come from Ghana’s Adinkra tradition. See if you can identify them!
With a rich blend of Ghanaian and Jamaican visual influences, Araba’s bookshelf continues to draw interest as it travels with her!
Detail of bookshelf painting
Were you able to guess which Adinkra symbols are featured?
From left to right: Nsoromma, Nyame Biribi Wo Soro and Akoma. You can read more about Adinkra symbols and their meanings here.


What you can do

Submit your own bookshelf story to us, and share it with Paper Tigers!
Build yourself a bookcase, and decorate it with your favorite images (perhaps scenes from a childhood book?). You can find simple tutorials for recycled cardboard bookcases here and here.

Mmofra Foundation remembers Dr. Wangari Maathai, 1940 - 2011

Dr. Wangari Maathai. Photo Credit: In2eastafrica

Dr. Wangari Muta Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement,  passed away on Sunday September 25 in Nairobi, Kenya at the age of 71.  Named one of the heroines of the world, she was a great advocate for human rights and the environment who inspired the planting of more than 20 million trees.
She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, the first African woman to do so.
Wangari Maathai’s dedication to protecting trees and forests began with her appreciation of the rural village environment she grew up in.  In her words,
About two hundred yards away from the fig tree was a stream name Kanungu with water so clean, and fresh that we drank it straight from the stream. Underneath the arrowroots, there would be thousands of frogs’ eggs. They were black, brown, and white beads that I thought would make a beautiful necklace”.
In a message to the world’s children, Wangari Maathai said,
Whatever you are doing, wherever you are, do not feel discouraged.”
We honor her by reminding all children that she lives on through the many books that have been written about her and will continue to be written. Here are some of them:
Seeds of Change, by Jen Cullerton Johnson, illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa, by Jeannette Winter.

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai, by Claire A. Nivola.

Mama Miti, by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Kadir Nelson.

Wangari Maathai, the Woman who Plants Millions of Trees, by Franck Prevot, illustrated by Aurelia Fronty.

What You Can Do
Support the Green Belt Movement

Mmofra Foundation article on This Big City
How did the debut article about Mmofra Foundation’s new Playtime in Africa Initiative fare online?  First, we have to thank Joe Peach of This Big City, who featured us during his series on “Urban Innovations+Africa” from September 12-18.
The feedback has been resoundingly positive, particularly after “Designing Cities with Children in Mind” was picked up and featured on two other widely referenced blogs, Sustainable Cities Collective and TheCityFix.
There’s more!  On September 16th, we made it as a “pick of the Picks of the Week” for Urban Development and Accessibility on TheCityFix.
Social media response to Designing Cities With Children in Mind
Our favorite Twitter response came from Public  Workshop. (#yesyesyesyes!)
The Playtime in Africa Initiative is now on Green Streets, a Scoop.it topic populated with thoughts, ideas and dialogues on urban revitalization, smart growth and neighborhood development (thanks, Moss Yaw Design Studio!)
“Designing Cities with Children in Mind” continues to circulate online, and we are excited to share further ideas on sustainable, child-centered urban development that resonate with the global community.

Achimota students outdoors at Mmofra Language Club session
Many of us have stories to tell, but how often do we find the courage to put pen to paper and share them with others?
In celebration of Dr. Efua Sutherland’s birthday, Mmofra Foundation held a writing workshop encouraging young authors-to-be to do just that. 65 students from 7 schools around Accra enjoyed an afternoon of activity and discussion with Prof. Abena Busia of Rutgers University and Prof. Ama Ohene of the University of Ghana…as you will see below, these budding writers are keen to show that children make wonderful storytellers!
Achimota students writing at Mmofra Language Club session
We were also delighted to welcome Prof. Busia’s university students from Rutgers, who joined us as a part of their study abroad program. Many thanks to Nancy Musinguzi, who shared her snapshots from the afternoon with us!
Study abroad group from Rutgers at Mmofra Language Club with Dr. Esi Sutherland-Addy
University students engage with Achimota students at Mmofra Language Club
Achimota students at Mmofra Language Club session
photo credit: Nancy Musinguzi

Tag cloud for Playtime in Africa
Mmofra Foundation is embarking on a new project, pioneering child-centered urban space design in Accra! Our Playtime in Africa Initiative, inspired by Efua Sutherland and Willis Bell’s book of the same name, will take two acres of undeveloped land in the Dzorwulu neighborhood and transform them into a centre that blends the natural playground, “living classroom”, and children’s museum!
You can read more about the Initiative’s development here.
We had the wonderful opportunity to discuss the Playtime in Africa Initiative on the urban design blog this big city, as a part of their “Urban Innovations + Africa” series. Click on the image below to read the article and add your feedback!
Mmofra Foundation article on This Big City

What you can do

In our first phase of project development, we are documenting the perspectives of Ghanaian children on recreation and public space. Contribute to our flickr group, Playtime in Ghana, with your images of play in everyday Ghanaian life!
We are drawing inspiration from model sites all over the world, and welcome input in a variety of areas related to play, early childhood development, sustainable design, landscape architecture, and more. If you would like to learn more about this project and contribute your ideas, please contact us!