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Kaffir (Xhosa) Folk-Lore, by George McCall Theal, [1886], at


The game called Iceya is mentioned in this story as being played in the rock that became a hut. The games with which Kaffir boys are accustomed to amuse themselves are, as a rule such as require a large amount of exertion of legs, arms and lungs. In the European towns, and at Mission stations, they have generally adopted the English game of cricket, but at their own kraals they still practise the sports of their ancestors.

At a very early age they commence trials of skill against each other in throwing knobbed sticks and imitation assagais. They may often be seen enjoying this exercise in little groups, those of the same age keeping together, for there is no greater tyrant in the world than the big Kaffir boy over his younger fellows. Commencing with an ant-heap at a distance of ten or fifteen yards, for a target, they gradually become so perfect that they can hit an object a foot square at double and even treble that distance. The knobbed stick and the imitation assagai are thrown in different ways, the object of the first being to inflict a heavy blow upon the mark aimed at, while that of the last is to pierce it. This exercise strengthens the muscles of the arms, and gives expansion to the chest. The result is that when the boys are grown up and become men, they are able to use their weapons without any further training. When practising, they keep up a continual noise, and if an unusually successful hit is made the thrower shouts the common Kaffir cry of exultation, Tsi! ha! ha! ha! ha! Izikali zika Rarabe! (The weapons of Khàkhàbay).

Kaffir boys above the age of nine or ten years are fond of shamfighting with sticks. They stand in couples, each with a foot advanced to meet that of his antagonist, each with a cudgel elevated in the right hand. Each fixes his eye upon the eye of his opponent, and seeks to ward off blows as well as to inflict them. In these contests pretty hard strokes are sometimes given and received with the utmost good humour.

A game of which they are very fond is an imitation hunt. In this, one of them represents a wild animal of some kind, a second acts as a hunter, and the others take the part of dogs in pursuit. A space is marked off, within which the one chased is allowed to take breath, when he is said to be in the bush. He tries to imitate as closely as possible the animal he is representing. Thus if he is an antelope he simply runs, but if he is a lion he stands and fights.

The calves of the kraal are under the care of the boys, and a good dcal of time is passed in training thern to run and to obey signals made by whistling. The boys mount them when they are eighteen months or two years old, and race about upon their backs. When the boys are engaged in any sport, one of the number is selected by lot to tend the calves. As many blades of grass as there are boys are taken, and a knot is made on the end of one of them. The biggest boy holds the blades between the fingers and thumb of his closed hand, and whoever draws the blade with the knot has to act as herdsman.

They have also a simple game called hide and look for.

If they chance to be disinclined for active exercise, they amuse themselves by moulding clay into little images of cattle, or by making puzzles with strings. Some of them are skilful in forming knots with thongs and pieces of wood, which it taxes the ingenuity of the others to undo. The cleverest of them sometimes practise tricks of deception with grains of maize. They are so sharp that although one is sure that he actually sees the grain taken into the right hand, that hand when opened will be found empty and the maize will be contained in the left, or perhaps it will be exhibited somewhere else.

The above comprise the common out-door sports of boys up to the age of fourteen or fifteen years, At that time of life they usually begin to practise the different dances which they will be required to take part in when they become men. These dances differ one from another almost as much as those practised by Europeans.

The commonest indoor game of the Kaffirs is the one called Iceya. This can be played by two persons or any number exceeding two. The players sit in a circle, and each has a little piece of wood, a grain of corn, or something of the kind. It must be, so small that it can easily be concealed in a folded hand, and no player must have more than one. If there are many players they form themselves into sides or parties, but when they are few in number one plays against the rest. This one conceals the toy in either of his hands, and throwing both arms out against an opponent he announces himself either as an Inhlangano (one who meets), or an Ipambo (one who evades). His opponent throws his arms out in the same manner, so that his right hand shall be opposite the first player's left, and his left opposite the first player's right. The clenched hands are then opened, and if the toys are found to meet, the first player wins if he has called himself an inhlangano, or loses if an ipambo. If the toys do not meet, the case is reversed. When there are many players, one after another is beaten until two only are left. This part of the game is called the Umnyadala (the winding up). Those two then play against each other, and the one who is beaten is said to be left with the umnyadala, and is laughed at. The winner is greeted as the wearer of the tiger skin mantle. In playing, the arms are thrown out very quickly, and the words are rapidly uttered, so that a stranger might fancy there was neither order nor rule observed. Young men and boys often spend whole nights playing the Iceya, which has the same hold upon them as dice upon some Europeans.

Next to the Iceya, the most popular indoor game with Kaffir children is the Imfumba. One of the players takes a grain of maize, or any other small substance, in his hands, and pretends to place it in the hands of the others, who are seated in a circle around him. He may really give it to one of them, or he may keep it himself. One is then selected to guess in whose possession it is.[1]

The last of the Kaffir indoor games is called Cumbelele. Three or four children stand with their closed hands on top of each other, so as to form a column, They sing "Cumbelele. cumbelele, pang-alala," and at the last la they draw their hands back sharply, each one pinching with his thumb nail the hand above.

Toys, as playthings, are few in number. Bows and arrows are sometimes seen, but generally boys prefer an imitation assagai.

The nodiwu is a piece of wood about six or eight inches long, an inch and a half or two inches wide, and an eighth or a quarter of an inch thick in the middle. Towards the edges it is bevelled

[1. A Kaffir who went with the mission party from Lovedale to Lake Nyassa, and remained there several years, informs me that he found the Imfumba the commonest game of the children in that part of Africa. When he had learned the language of the people there, he was surprised to hear many of the common Kaffir folklore stories told nearly as he had heard them related by Gaka women when he was a boy.]

off, so that the surface is convex, or consists of two inclined planes. At one end it has a thong attached to it by which it is whirled rapidly round. The other end of the thong is usually fastened to a small round piece of wood used as a handle. The nodiwu, when whirled round gives forth a noise that can be heard at a considerable distance. Besides the use which it is put to by the lads, when a little child is crying inside a hut its mother or nurse will sometimes get a boy to make a noise with a nodiwu outside, and then induce the child to be still by pretending that a monster is coming to devour it. There is a kind of superstition connected with the nodiwu, that playing with it invites a gale of wind. Men will, on this account, often prevent boys from using it when they desire calm weather for any purpose. This superstition is identical with that which prevents many sailors from whistling at sea.

I have greatly reduced this story in bulk by leaving out endless repetitions of exactly the same trick, but performed upon different individuals or animals. In all other respects it is complete. The word Hlakanyana means the little deceiver.

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