The Kids’ Kingdom
Friday 19th August – Kigali – RWANDA
There is a street in Kigali that it is called Umwana ni umutware.
It is a nice long street that flows smoothly from the local market to another area of the neighbourhood where people socialise, sitting outdoors while drinking a coffee or sipping a refreshing juice.
The street starts and ends with a couple of massive wooden flowerbeds that only allow people on foot to come through. No cars or motorbikes can pass the green gates.
On the tarmac I notice the game called campana (the Italian for bell), and known as hopscotch in English, that I loved playing in the street with the neighbourhood kids, when I was little.
A series of squares numbered from one to ten, positioned in rows that have either one or two blocks, represent the frame.
You throw a rock and jump in each block precisely, following the order of the numbers.
You have to reach your hand out to pick up the rock in each block, while crouching down standing on one leg. If the player successfully completes the task, they will carry on until they reach the highest number to win.
The bells of our childhood were usually drawn by hand using white and coloured pieces of chalk; they needed to be refreshed regularly, and often re-established, especially after a rainy day.
However, in this street, kids don’t have that problem: the campane are boldly painted in different sizes and colours along the street, affirming their wish to stay there.
Other games are also painted on the grey surface, constantly tempting you to abandon your steady walk to jump in and follow their colourful, sinuous paths.
On the many benches you can sit on along the way, there are a series of chess boards, lined up like in an official international competition.
Now and then the writing kina rimwe (‘play once’ in English) reminds players that rotation systems should be applied and maintained.
Walls are coloured with bright tints and sunny graffiti, many of which portray kids playing happily, or smiling faces that raise silent melodies to the sky while the singer is jumping though fresh grass and waterfalls of flowers. On other walls, enormous, cute baby faces observe you with curious and innocent eyes.
On the walls also lie a few pairs of large, creative butterfly wings.
The wings are slightly apart waiting to be joined by the body of a youngster standing in between them, waiting for a funny portrait picture to be taken.
Like the wings, other objects also invite people to interact with them, asking to be brought to life thanks to the power of imagination.
All this you can find on this street called Umwana ni umutware, which means ‘the kid is the king’.
You have just been welcomed to their kingdom.