|Photo Credit: Terrie Schweitzer (CC)|
Can you think of your favorite childhood game? In Ghana, without a doubt it's Ampe, especially for girls. I've read it described as kind of like rock, paper, scissors with feet - but it's also a jumping and clapping game that feels like a dance. Sounds fun, doesn't it?
Ampe is a traditional children's game, played mostly by young girls in Ghana, but older girls play as well (and some boys too). Kids play it all the time, at home, at school during break times, when out and about. It can be played with two individuals or with two teams. Basically, players jump up at the same time, clap, and thrust one foot forward as they land. The patterns of legs determine the winner. It's a fun game that keeps kids active, and requires being able to anticipate your opponent, making snap decisions and having quick reflexes.
Before you read the rules, take a quick look at this video to get a feel for the rythm of it.
How to Play
With two individuals:
Choose which player is the leader. The leader and the other player jump up at the same time and clap twice - on the second clap, as they land they thrust on foot forward. If the leader and the other player have the same foot forward, "bend" (both of the right feet or both of the left feet), the leader wins a point. If opposing feet are thrust, "straight" then the other player becomes leader. Players keep score until one has a certain amount to be announced winner.
As a group:
Choose which player is leader. The same game play as with individuals, but this time the leader makes her or his way along the line of other kids (in a line up, or circled around her). A point is scored every time the leader is successful, and points are tallied after she makes her way through the group. Another person becomes leader and tallies her/his points. Everyone takes a turn as a leader, and the one with the most scored points wins.
As 2 teams:
Each team should have equal numbers. One team chooses how it will win points - whether if feet land "bend" or "straight" (see individual game play). The second team wins points the opposite way.
Teams line up facing each other. One person from the first team jumps & claps with a person of the second team. The person who wins a point moves onto the next person in the opposing team. This continues until all players on one team have been beaten. When this happens, the winning team gets to choose a player from the opposing team to be ejected from the game. Once a team has ejected all the players from an opposing team, they've succeeded in winning.
It's more of a schoolyard game these days, but traditionally it was a competitive sport between ampe groups from several villages. The origin of the game is unknown, and I can't find when it's believed to have started. I did watch an interview of a 100 year old woman who recounts being in a competitive ampe group when she was in her mid to late teens. Crowds of spectators would watch the tournaments, which could last as long as two or three days. It was either an event on its own or part of a ceremony.
The girls were full of giggles playing this - but refused to allow me to photograph them :) It certainly brought out their competitive sides!
Find more games from West Africa here.
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