In recent times, African countries have continued to improve on their performances at the Olympics, with loads of medals to show for it. But, unlike Europe and North America, Africa can’t brag about having an Olympic game which originated on the continent. However, that might change really soon as Ugandan game, kwepena, is being pushed to be accepted at the Olympics.
Kwepena is a word that loosely translates to ‘dancing’. The game, which is popular among young people in Uganda, has been in existence for centuries. Like dodgeball, it involves players taking turns to dodge a softball thrown by their opponents.
The game requires an open space with two persons at the opposite ends who throw softballs while one or more people in the centre dart around so the ball doesn’t touch them. A score is recorded each time the ball hits a player.
Also known as cheza, kwepena has been worked on by Ugandan entrepreneur, Simon Tumukunde, who wants to take it to the Olympics. He and his team have modernized the game by defining court dimensions, writing the rules, designing the balls and jerseys, and pushing the modern kwepena out there through publicity.
Tumukunde speaks with Urban Television about the responsibility he feels for kwepena:
“We looked at kwepena as a traditional game that was played years and years back by our grandparents – and, maybe, by the little girls right now – and we realized that it’s a game that is also overlooked. And we said, what is the weakness that kwepena has?
We were like: I think we can redesign this game! I think we can add a few things to make it professional.”
According to This is Uganda, Tumukunde has created a standard for the game – developing 4 rounds and teams of five for it, with each team having dodgers and shooters. With things looking up, he and his team have taken the game to primary and secondary schools where the reception has been heartwarming.
While Tumukunde works with his team of lawyers who are helping with the legal work to push the game to the Olympics, kwepena is also being used for social causes, one being #Together4Her – a fundraising for girls faced with crisis pregnancies.