Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Shona Traditional Children's Games and Play: Songs as Indigenous Ways of Knowing

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Shona Traditional Children's Games and Play: Songs as Indigenous Ways of Knowing

Article excerpt


This paper seeks to foreground the role of Shona traditional children's games and play songs as indigenous ways of learning. Motivation to carry out such a study comes from a noticeable growing interest in indigenous knowledge systems as evidenced in the works of Warren (1991), Flavier et al. (1995) Goduka (2000), Kunnie (2000), Pikirayi (2000) and Nyota and Mapara (2007). The present authors are also motivated by the use of these traditional items as methods and tools of teaching and learning especially in Zimbabwe's rural primary schools as well as in some urban schools.

The other motivating factor is the non-use of these games and play songs in most urban preschools. These pre-schools instead prefer the use English games and songs. The authors would like to show and share how these pre-scholars and urban learners miss out and run the risk of not being conversant with what their culture can offer. This research is thus an attempt to salvage this knowledge. As scholars who were socialised in a cultural environment where these games and play songs contributed immensely to the socialisation process of the young, the present authors have the urge to share their experiences and contribute to knowledge in this area. As tools of the socialisation process, these games and play songs become part of part of the indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) which is the local knowledge that is unique to any community or culture. (The terms indigenous knowledge systems [IKS] and indigenous way of knowing [IWK] are used interchangeably in this paper). Warren (1991) has defined indigenous knowledge as the basis for decision making at the local level. Such decisions have a bearing on key issues such as societal norms and values, socio-economic issues such as socialisation of the young, food production, processing and preservation as well as natural resources management. This shows that it differs from that type of knowledge that universities, research institutions and private companies generate. To this end, Nyota and Mapara (2007:1) have remarked that indigenous knowledge is that "Knowledge that is commonly owned and shared among the inhabitants of a particular community." Similarly, Flavier et al. (1995:479) have defined it as:

   The information base for a society which facilitates communication 
   and decision-making. Indigenous information systems are dynamic and 
   are continually influenced by internal creativity and 

These words make it clear that IKS is not a fossilised type of knowledge but a knowledge that is constantly adjusting to the immediate needs of its community as the need arises.

Shona traditional children's games and play songs have attracted the attention of researchers and scholars such as Hodza (1985) and Matindike (1984). They are also featured on radio and television. The present authors have however, observed that most earlier works on the Shona children's games and play songs focus on recording them or using them as primary school comprehension passages with very little analyses showing their cognitive roles. The present authors are thus deliberately focusing on the contribution of Shona traditional children's games and play songs towards the cognitive and socialisation of the young.

Cognitive Development of the Young

The study of the cognitive development of the young has captured the attention of earlier and development psychologists such as Piaget and Vygotsky (cited in Berger 2000), Rogoff et al. (1990), Tharp and Gillimore (1988) and Berger (2000). Most of these scholars have studied the western and eastern child on the main, with little or no focus on the African child.

The present authors do not claim any knowledge of developmental psychology with its experiments as such, but have vast interest in the Shona indigenous knowledge systems, whether this is from Shona games, play songs, proverbs, taboos or folktales. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.