Here at The African Volunteer network we focus on supporting children young people though volunteer work and sponsorship that can make a real difference to their lives. In doing so we attempt to explore the lives children live in Africa and the challenges they face on a personal, family, community and national level. Inevitably perhaps, and the resulting need for sponsorship, that means that detailing poverty, poor access to health and medical care, HIV, family disruption and conflict. Yet despite these issues, children in Africa have fun. Admittedly not all of the time, but much of what others may consider overpowering disadvantages are simply incorporated into everyday life for most kids in Africa. They wake up, have breakfast, do their chores such as collecting water and brushwood for fire, tend the goats, go to school, return home, undertake more family chores, do their homework, tidy their compounds, eat their evening food and PLAY (and argue, but that's a different story!)
That play may not be plugging in the latest games console or watching TV, but play existed long before those became available. African children play with balls, often made from rubber bands, games with stones in the ground and other activities those who came before us also played for centuries. African kids also dance with a freedom of movement that many in the 'west' find fascinating. Today, African kids dance to the latest music on their radio stations just like billions of others do across the world, but dancing often has its roots woven into the social fabric of their culture and can involve aspects of traditional music and theatre as well as rhythmic bodily movement. Traditional African dancing often falls into three main categories; Ritual/religious, ceremonial, and griotic (namely an African storytelling form where traditions are passed on orally, through narration, music and dance, somewhat akin to mintrels of old).
The Shona people for example (from modern day Zimbabwe) have a dance ritual called the 'Mbira' which they believe is a method of contacting deceased ancestors and former wise tribal leaders whilst the Maasai jumping dance is performed by young tribesman to demonstrate their physical prowess (and attractiveness to females.) Those familiar with rural Africa in particular will have seen babies being carried on their mother's backs during day-to-day work and social events and as such, almost from the moment of birth, have experienced traditional lullabies, songs, and rhythms with observers noting that many children so carried will move their heads and limbs in rhythm to the tune being sung. This page showcases African kids dancing in tradition and modern form. Viewers may note much of the modern day dancing demonstrates that what is known in the west as street dancing, breaking, hip-hop etc can be directly traced back to African roots.
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