Games that township kids play

Mary-Anne Gontsana
Children playing Three Toti in Mfuleni. Photo by Masixole Feni.
Mary-Anne Gontsana

Three cans, an old pantihose or rope and a handful of stones. These are the ingredients you need to have a whole day of outdoor fun, no matter what age.

Indigenous games are recognised by the Department of Sport and Recreation, and many of these games are offered in different recreation centres across the Cape Flats. The department trains volunteers as indigenous games leaders and hosts tournaments where these games are played and promoted.

A fan of these games, eight-year-old Sima Nobhayi, says she learnt them at school from her friends during break time. “I don’t know the history of the games, but I know my mommy and aunt know them and they say they used to play them long ago when they were my age,” she said.

Nobhayi says she enjoys the games, especially unopey’ntana (see below), but it gets a little difficult finding the old pantihose needed for the game because her grandmother’s ones are always in good shape and she still wears them.

GroundUp looked at three games that are frequently played in townships.


Asiphenathi Ntongana plays unopey’ntana. Photo by Masixole Feni.

Unopey’ntana, is played using an old pantihose that has been cut out to form little strings that will be tied together, to form one long string. The long string is then tied together by the ends and is played by three people at a time.

Two people on each end put the string over their bodies forming two parallel strings, then the third person has to play in between these strings to complete different levels of the game without making mistakes. The levels go from the ankles right up to the head which is the highest level. The higher the level the more difficult the game to complete.

Three Toti is an active game played by five people at a time, with three cans and a tennis ball. The aim of the game is to hit the three cans that will be placed in a pyramid style and put in the middle of the playground. A person must then hit the cans using the ball and while your opponent is picking them up and putting them together again, you collect points by running back and forth. The faster you run, the more points you get.


Children play upuca. Photo by Masixole Feni.

Upuca, uses small stones and can be played by a number of people. A circle is drawn on the ground where these stones are put in. A player has to have one bigger stone in her hand. She throws it in the air and in the same breath pulls out the stones from the circle. Then she throws the bigger stone in the air again and pushes the rest of the stones back in the circle leaving one or more stones depending on the level of the game. The aim would be not to drop the bigger stone and also to collect the correct number of stones for the level she is playing.

For example, if you are on level two, you must collect two stones. Once you miss catching the bigger stone then the game goes to the next player. The winner will be the one who collects the most stones from the circle.

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TOPICS:  Arts and culture