Saharan and North African toy and play cultures: Domestic life in play, games and toys

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Under the title Domestic life in play, games and toys I have compiled a whole series of play activities that reflect many different aspects of domestic and family life. The first chapter analyses the theme of dwellings in the playful representation of the tent and the house. The second chapter describes dinner play and the toy utensils used for these games that often take place in a pretend house. The play activities linked to household tasks, which like dinner play belong for the larger part to the play world of girls, are proposed in the third chapter. These household tasks belonging to the female sphere are collecting firewood, fetching water, grinding corn, making bread, preparing oil, washing the linen, spinning, weaving and dressing up. The following chapter speaks of play in which children interpret subsistence activities. This often belongs to the play world of boys. The subsistence activities take place outside the domestic circle and they very often belong to the male sphere. They are hunting and fishing, breeding, gardening, working in the fields and trading. The two final chapters discuss play activities and toys inspired by music and dance or by rites and festivities. The conclusions are more developed than before as I have included in the French version some themes discussed in my book Toys, Play, Culture and Society. An anthropological approach with reference to North Africa and the Sahara (2005). For the first time a chapter on children‟s creativity has been integrated. Then follows the catalogue of the Saharan and North African toys of the Musée de l‟Homme. The Saharan populations whose children’s play activities and toys are described in this book are the Tuareg, the Ghrib, the Moors, the Sahrawi, the Chaamba, the Teda, the Zaghawa, the Belbala, the inhabitants of the Saoura Valley and the Mozabites. Except the Belbala, the inhabitants of the Saoura Valley and the Mozabites, these populations lived a nomadic or seminomadic existence but since a longer or shorter time they became partially or totally sedentarized. The sedentarized populations this book is speaking about are the Kabyles and the Chaouïa from Algeria, several communities living in the Moroccan countryside and inhabitants of some Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian towns. Through all these play activities and toys related to domestic life the children appropriate the adult world in an active way. At the same time they progressively integrate in their family and community. Sometimes their games put on stage locally inexistent situations or dreams of the future. A few examples described in this book show that Moroccan children mock adult practices. The play world of the girls is clearly distinct from the play world of the boys but it happens that this distinction fades away and that some girls or boys find interest or participate in play activities of the other sex. A remarkable example of the infiltration of the very new in an ancestral play activity is offered by the construction and doll game of a girl and her brother in the Sidi Ifni region. Although the pretend houses with clay walls and the dolls consisting of snail shells belong to old times, the introduction into their game of a self-made mobile telephone that is related to the high technology of today demonstrates the interpenetration of both worlds something these children certainly did not see as a contradiction. Furthermore, I have the impression that the past, the present and sometimes the future are easily combined in play activities.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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