Somali Games of Attention and Celerity

G. Marin

dζawwo (Issa·q)

[Page 502] Played by two boys or better, by two equal teams squatting in two rows facing each other. Four fanciful stakes are chosen, two by each team, alternately; e.g. one side may deem itself the owner of all the camels of the country, and of all its sheep and goats, while the other may [Page 503] assume possession of all the cattle and of all the horses and asses, or of all the girls and of all the weapons, etc. At the same time, one team chooses gu·d, ("above") and the other ħo·s ("below"). The players then divide into groups of four - comprising two partners squatting side by side with their two opponents facing them.

All move their hands in quick succession and rhythm, but neither systematically nor always symmetrically; sometimes they will slap their knees, or their chests, will clap hands or extend one arm towards their opponent. Now, it often occurs that two opponents extend a hand at the same time; if it happens to be two right, or two left hands, the boy on the side which has chosen ħo·s ("below," i.e. "palm versus palm") scores a rawwo; if it is one right hand and one left, the player on the gu·d side scores a rawwo. The winner of the rawwo then plays with his second opponent, if he wins again, his side scores "two"; if he loses, his rawwo counts for nothing. The playing between two children who have a rawwo each is called gaura'. Points are scored collectively by each team, in even numbers: "two, four, six ..." up to "sixteen" which constitutes a gamu·n, (" blunt arrow"). It is then deemed to have won from the other side one half of the camels, or of the cattle, as the case may be. Then a new count is started which must run up to "twenty-one," i.e. "twenty" and an odd rawwo. This constitutes a ajjar bog, "big game," and secures "all the camels" or "all the cattle" from the enemy. After that, the game is repeated until one team finds itself owner of all four stakes, when it generously grants to the losers "all the flies" or "all the rubbish of the country."

Last update January 7, 2010