Elements of Traditional Games of the Gusii Community of Kenya
Mwenda, Penninah Wanjiku
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A large component of the cultural traditions of African people has been handed down through generations. In the absence of written records, gradually with time, African communities came up with a number of cultural elements such as oral literature, games, music and dances that facilitated cognitive development to enhance recall and communication of facts. These are vital cultural elements that require preservation and perpetuation over time. This study aimed at identifying and recording for preservation and perpetuation, the cultural elements of Gusii community of Kenya. The study focused on the Gusii traditional games in terms of their forms, participants, equipment and facilities, rules/ codes of play and the socio-cultural settings within which they were participated, as well as their significance to the participants. The study further assessed the placement of Gusii games in Cheska’s (1987) classification of traditional games. This being a descriptive study, interviews and observation were used. Respondents were people who were of age 76 years on average as these were persons who participated in Gusii traditional games or witnessed them being performed when Gusii cultural systems were still intact in the 1940s and 1950s. The Gusii traditional games did not suffer an instant demise but rather, they have gone through a gradual marginalization. Thirty eight (38) respondents were purposively sampled on the premise that they were familiar with the required information. After identifying the respondents, sequential sampling as expounded by Krathwohl (1993) and Mugenda & Mugenda (2012) was used. The study identified twenty six (26) games as the required data. This data was analytically classified for comparative purposes using classification schemes advanced by authors who carried out similar works in the past. The main classification scheme adapted for use was the Cheska’s (1987) version which had successfully been used earlier to classify West African traditional games. Gusii traditional games fitted appropriately in Cheska’s adapted scheme as follows: games of physical challenge and strategy, games of strategy and chance, games of survival, games of physical challenge and chance, detection games, games of chance only, simulation games and malevolence games. This information is presented in prose and in form of a table showing the frequencies and percentages of skills acquired from participating in the said games. A second more generalized classification was also applied to Gusii games in this study using two schemes that had earlier been used to classify games of coastal region of Kenya. These two classification schemes include warfare and non-warfare related games as well as games of low skill organization and games of high skill organization. Gusii traditional games were found to be accommodated in the latter schemes as well. Additionally, this study found that, the Gusii traditional games were guided by simple rules, took place in various socio-cultural settings and were of significance to the participants and the entire community. Recommendations made in this study include; Ministry of Education, Science and Technology’s encouragement of participation and preservation of traditional games by emphasizing their teaching at all levels, Gusii community to encourage participation in their community’s games at local levels as well as identification and documentation of traditional games of all other indigenous Kenyan communities whose studies have not been undertaken.