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THE GAMES WE PLAYED.  6. Bok-Bok. [Goat-Goat]  (5min read]. 

Buqa buqa.  Adapted from a 16th century painting.

Many of the street games had Afrikaans names.  In many areas, we mixed the languages.  In Cape Town,  a sentence combined Afrikaans and English like a tapestry of words thrown in with some Malay words[see separate Afrikaans language blog ].   In many games, the names were doubled as above.

Bok-bok has its roots in Roman antiquity.  Buqa buqa seem to be Uzbek words for bull.  A “bok” in Afrikaans is a goat, so it seems the original animal was its larger cousin, a bull.  In other countries, the name covered a farmyard, including horses and donkeys!

There could be up to a dozen players split into two teams.  Like most games, a captain chose his team.  The two captains alternated as they chose players for their strength, agility and their ability to jump.  They needed long jumpers who could add a bit of height to their jumps. Many of the players were there as space fillers.; those who could not jump added to the drama of the contest.

A team needed at least one heavy member who did not have to jump too far.  This player, with his back against a wall or a tree for support, formed the base of the column of players who had to hold onto him as they bent over in a straight line. The rest of his team had their heads tucked between the legs of the player ahead.  They would hold onto those ahead of them as tight as they could.  Stability was the critical factor in building one’s goat, bull, donkey, horse, etc.

The other team had to jump along the length of the column of backs presented to them.  The best jumper went first and had to stay put where he landed.  The aim was to go as high, as hard and as far as possible to collapse the column of huddled bodies.  Subsequent jumpers landed behind or on top of the previous jumpers.  If they ran out of space for their last jumper, then they were disqualified, and the team were roles reversed.

If the jumping group fell down onto the ground, then their team would face the same penalty, so hanging on for dear life was critical.  High-pitched squeals accompanied every successful jump; groans emanated when they failed.  You waited with baited breath when the weaker jumpers came charging in on the short sprint needed before taking off. It could be quite comical when one of them crashed into the backside of the last person in the line.

Jumping was preferred. No one wanted to be the goats at the bottom. The largest player would run in last for a crash jump aimed at collapsing the column. Captains decided on the order of jumping.  He needed a stronger member as the last in the bent-over column.  If the supporting column collapsed, then they had to knuckle down again for another round.  Arguments were frequent as to whether a column collapsed or the jumping group fell off.  The latter was more common.

Once all the jumpers were on board, the captain of the jumpers would call out:  “Bok-bok, hoeveel op die lyf”  [Goat-goat, how many on the body].  The other captain chose a number from one to five.  If correct, they reversed their roles.  If the guess was wrong, the captains trooped over to check the number written in the sand at the side of the road where it was covered over with a piece of wood or cardboard.  The jumping team would then jump again.

Here was a game that the girls loved.  Many were good jumpers, and no one objected to their presence.  No boy that I knew of ever did!  As popular as the game was, it was played out of sight of parents who frowned on the game.  It was a game that was banned at most schools. Parents and teachers feared for spinal damage although one never heard of anyone paralysed when the support column collapsed.

Come to think of it, could those bok-bok days explain my chronic back-ache?

Here was a game that was hugely popular and had to rank as the most boisterous and fun-filled of the early evening sessions we had. Anyone up for a bok-bok challenge? I’m ready!


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