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Traditional Games: Socialization and Culture in Kabylie

Written By

Soraya Dodoo

Submitted: 24 May 2021 Reviewed: 16 June 2021 Published: 23 November 2021

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.98929

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Heritage - New Paradigm

Edited by Daniela Turcanu-Carutiu

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Traditional games are an important patrimony of the world’s recreational cultural heritage. However, they remain little valued, even neglected to the detriment of sports. This study focuses on traditional games in Kabylie, and the process of socialization through the games.This reveals valuable information on the structures underlying traditional games, and their ethno-motor. A study that associate two fields. The world of bodily practices and the world of Ethnology. Two different worlds that share one reality which is traditional games.


  • Traditional games
  • Socialization
  • bodily practice
  • Culture
  • Ethno-motricity

1. Introduction

For a long time, physical activities have been regarded as bio-energetic acts. It is until Marcel Mauss work that we discovered that bodily practices are cultural social phenomenon. Marcel Mauss defines body techniques as “the ways in which men, society by society, in a traditional way, know how to use their body” [1]. The ways of playing and moving one’s body are not universal but as diverse as languages, clothes and dwellings. Adding to cultural aspect of body, there is diversity in practice movement. For examples, swimming is practiced differently from one society to another and even from one generation to another. In short, “each society has its own unique habits”. Mauss Marcel [1] everything is not innate, but transmitted, learned and acquired through education. Everyone must learn to use their body according to what they learn from their family, their environment and their society. Everything is acquired. We are in the presence of a “phenomenon-biological-sociological. This emphasizes the strong impact of society individual’s behavior. In fact, physical activities reflect their social context. P. Parlebas a pioneer of the praxiology-motrice sums up this phenomenon with the concept of “ethnomotricity” which is defined as the set of “fields and nature of motor practices considered from the angle of their relationship to their cultures and to the social environments in which they are located, developed” [2].

Likewise, we see “the game as a system” [3]. There is interaction between the players themselves, and between the players and the environment. Thus, the player is continuously in interaction and in communication with others, whether it is his partner or his opponent, and in relation with the external environment which is the space where the game takes place, and it is in these interactions that the game makes sense [4].

Thus, playful practices are not only physical acts, but they are also nourished by social representations, norms and values ​​of a given group. Although, the richness, study of the games, there have been a little interest even ignored. A few classical authors have taken an interest in play and have studied it as an object. Among them, Johan Huizinga, in his seminal work Homo-ludens [5]. He defined the game as follows: “A free action, felt as ‘fictitious’ and situated outside of everyday life, capable nevertheless of fully absorbing the player. An action devoid of any material interest and any utility that is accomplished in a time and in an expressly circumscribed space, taking place in order according to given rules.” Thus, gambling is a leisure and entertainment activity which allows the player to escape from work and obligations. But this freedom is achieved within the limits of time and within the framework of the circumscribed space. The game is rich, it has a meaning,. For Huizinga, play is older than culture and is the core of culture. He writes: “Culture in its primitive phase is played out. It does not arise from the game as a living fruit that separates from the mother plant, but it unfolds in the game and as a game.” He adds: “However, it is important to characterize it as a basis and a factor of culture. This approach is shared by Caillois [6]. According to the author, this activity is unrestricted. Gambling as a leisure hobby is opposed to well-spent working time. If the working time is paid and productive, the game is characterized by free and unproductive. “Indeed, the game produces nothing: neither good nor work. It is essentially sterile”. Another author Lévi-Strauss in (1962) devoted part of “Α wild thought” to the analysis of an exotic game, with P. Bourdieu [7, 8, 9] who leaned on the question of the sociology of sporting tastes linked to style and social class. Much has been done since then, and the sociology of games has now established itself as a discipline in its own right. She therefore considers games to be a phenomenon that can be justified by a scientific approach, which attempts to objectify the movements of the human body, to understand how it develops and flourishes in a social environment.


2. Traditional games and identity

The neglect of traditional games in the sports practices of daily life of leisure time and the predominance of sport raise the question of our identity. It could be described as invasion that require awareness. According to Hall, in order to Preserve the cultural aspect, and to escape the latent constraints of a naturalized culture “is to become actively and consciously involved in those aspects of one’s existence that seem most natural to him.” [10].

In fact, to escape the predominance of sport, there must be an awareness of the crucial role of traditional games as a cultural and socializing phenomenon. In fact, Socialization plays a crucial role in the development of a child’s personality. Through the socialization we are filling in the child by by the means of the bodily practices the standards to be respected, the values ​​to be adopted, namely courage, strength, wisdom… All these aspects structure to model of the behavior of the person in accordance with society’s expectations.

We take up the idea of ​​P. Parlebas who emphasizes in this regard that the “process of socialization is in the play pact shared and internalized in the body” [3]. Through traditional games, the child comes into contact with rules and codes; in its very body, it shares the collective norm in all conformity and legitimacy. He continues his idea by noting that “the assimilation and internalization of these bodily practices as a code of behavior and in connivance with the way of life of this society directly affect the social aspects of social life: forms of communication , exchange, type of relationship with the body, conception of success, relationship to rules of authority… . The essence of traditional games is in the tradition that sets the rules. To this end, the tradition transmits to the game its codes, its rituals which constitute the master piece. Originated to the Maghreb culture, the reflection on the study of games has imposed itself on us for two reasons. In the first place, during our daily observation, we were struck by the disappearance of the traditional games in favor of the sport which is hoisted on the shield. The Algerian child plays football in the street, plays basketball and volleyball in sports clubs, while ignoring his own traditional games. In the second place, it is clear that the work on playful bodily practices in the Maghreb and particularly in Algeria is not legion.

Borhane Errais and Mohamed Ben LarBi have deepened their studies on playful practices in the Maghreb, qualifying them as changing practices.

In an article entitled Ethnography of bodily practices in pre-colonial Tunisia [11], all stress that: “In all certainty, we will answer that the colonial situation is at the origin of the disintegration and the dissolution of this bodily tradition. “(1986). Indeed, colonialism has substituted a universal model of bodily practices which is the sport, at the expense of traditional games which are put under wraps. B. Errai’s point of view associated this fact to the forms of colonial and post-colonial domination which are “the determining factors of this mutation and which have contributed to the disappearance of traditional bodily practices by virtue of the culminating hegemony of sport which triumphs with panache in the Maghreb.

In French colonial schools, the Algerian child was exposed to French culture. In the playgrounds, he played French games introduced by French teachers, such as the game of “Sadraqqa” which is none other than the game of the Four Coins, or the game of Chechia which is none other than the game “Beret game”.

This idea is also shared by Kent Edwards in his article “Traditional games of a timeless land: Play cultures in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities” According to Kent, the impact of the European colonizer has transformed even participating in the disappearance of many Aboriginal games. According to Kent, when a culture is under attack, it is always the traditional games that are most affected. It change both inter-group relations and cultural practices. When the colonizer strikes down their material resources, the games take second place in the sense the preoccupation of the group is more to survive than enjoy leisure [12].


3. Classification of games

Classification is a key step in the construction of the object. It is often attached to a philosophy, a theory adopted by the researcher. Taking classification as a thread of analysis and a technique, it makes it possible to classify and organize the world of games. Roger Caillois, in his book “Les jeux et les hommes [6]”, divides the games into four headings according to the role of competition, chance, simulacrum or vertigo. He calls them Agon, Alea, Mimicry and Ilinx. He writes on this subject: “We play football or marbles or chess (Agon), we play roulette or the lottery (Alea), we play pirate or we play Nero or Hamlet (Mimicry), we play to provoke in oneself, by a rapid movement of rotation or fall, an organic state of confusion and disarray (Ilinx)” [6].

Caillois associates Agon with dueling, rivalry, competition; sporting events are an ostentatious illustration of this category. On the other hand, Alea is associated with the game of chance where fate and luck are major factors of success; we find this in the example of the games of roulette, tossing a coin. The Mimicry represents role-playing games where the player plays to pretend, such as disguise games or mask games. The last category is the Ilinx game which alludes to vertigo, where the player seeks for a moment to detach himself from stability and enter a world of spasms, trance, dizziness, as for example the “dervishes seek the” ecstasy by turning on themselves”.

The Caillois classification has the merit of identifying the games according to roles and criteria; on the other hand the last criterion (Ilinx) is put in reserve, because the player is in continual control of his actions. The vertigo is only a final sensation, but after controlled movement and ability, as the examples of acrobatics and sliding prove.

The person who plays is a person who adopts attitudes, chooses strategies, and invents behaviors that take shape in motor actions. Therefore, the player is in a system of interaction with the environment and with other players. This system of interaction is at the heart of motor action. As Parlebas points out, “every sport game is a system. There are double interactions: the players between themselves and the players with the environment”. [13]. The key factor present in any situation is the notion of uncertainty: the informational dimension therefore takes on a major importance, insofar as it determines the behavior of the players. In an environment with uncertainty, the informational dimension is capital, because all decisions and all behaviors depend on it. In the case of outdoor games (forest, wood, large rivers), the player is in contact with the environment, he faces the forces of the world. Recognition of the terrain and training may nevertheless reduce the hazard. It is also important to note that a beginner and a professional player do not have the same perception of the pitch. In a ski descent, the professional player has prior information about the terrain, which allows him to choose the best strategy and succeed, while the beginner, lacking information, makes his decisions in a completely different direction. In fact, it is not the space, but the player’s relationship to the space that determines the appropriate strategy for the game.


4. Internal logic

When we observe children playing different kinds of games, we see different behaviors. These are not chosen by the players, they are intrinsic to the rules of the game. However, if two players are opponents in the fighting game, they can be partners in a team game. It is the network that codifies the type of motor communication, which is none other “than the web of these possible interactions that will weave the socio-motor dynamic”, namely who is with whom and who is against whom. “, (P. [2]) in reality, internal logic is a system of constraints which largely determines the motor behavior of the players. It presents a system of norms that the player assimilates and literally internalizes in his body when playing.

In studies on table mores, Elias Norbert makes a whole study of the norms that shape behavior. By civilizing table manners, it is all human behavior that is modeled according to this scheme. Norbert believes that standards are self-monitoring processes. He underlines that “the social norms which have been imposed on the individual from outside are then reproduced smoothly by self-restraint which to a certain degree operates automatically even if, at the level of consciousness, the person in question refuses it” (973). Hence the idea “to analyze the behaviors that a given society proposes to its members and for which it intended to condition them”. (Elias [14]).


5. External logic

A priori, the structural constraints of a game form the model that guides motor interactions in the game. Still, the rules that organize the symbolic universe of sports games represent a major issue. On the other hand, players are free to interpret the practices in their own way, according to their own aspirations. In fact, the structure of the game can be interpreted from the outside by logic, an external logic, which attributes symbolic meanings to it. For example, for a long time soccer (football) was an exclusively male sport. Today, it is a game played by girls too. The same goes for the game of hopscotch, which in the middle Ages was exclusively a popular adult game. Today hopscotch is a snap, plus again, a little girl’s game.(P.Parlebas,(2005) Internal logic is at the heart of the external logic game. These two levels of the game lead to a social reality which is that of the socialization of the child. As Joseba Extxebeste underlines in his study on Basque sports games: “The two logics (internal and external) are part of the cultural reality of play, but they are two different levels of the same social reality [15].

To better understand these two types of logic, we will take as a reference the cockfight in Bali (Indonesia). The American anthropologist Clifford Geertz reveals in his article “Deep play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight”, (973), where he describes the cockfight, all the social dynamics where the two logics combine and coexist. By representing the internal logic, we see that the game is an opposing duel between two players (the two roosters). It takes place in a boxing ring surrounded by a crowd of spectators. A coconut in a bucket of water is used to mark the start and end of each encounter. The duration of the game is indefinite. The show takes place in the afternoon and continues until sunset. The rules that accompany each part of the game are followed and passed down from generation to generation. The game leader is responsible for enforcing the rules and his authority is absolute. About nine to ten games make up the program, and each game looks like the others.

Cockfighting is part of the Balinese way of life. Apparently it’s just a cock fight, but in reality it’s a men’s fight. This fight scene is a matter of society [16]. Engaging a rooster in a fight is a duty for every citizen. What makes this game so serious is not the money, but what is happening on the sidelines: the shift from the status hierarchy to the cockfight corps. Sociologically speaking, this cockfighting game is a representation of a complex tension field, wagered, controlled and ceremonially exposed, but in its depth refers to the context of everyday life. Each people cultivate its own violence. This cock game, which is observed, played, and fascinating, is an illustration of the violence of the Balinese. However, Bali’s deep psychological identification with their roosters is inexplicable. If in everyday language the rooster is a symbol of virility and heroes, it is the subject of attention and admiration. The cockfight for the Balinese consists of playing with fire without being burned. It ignites rivalries and hostility between groups and individuals, but these are camouflaged in the game. What is forbidden in everyday life and presented in broad daylight, after all, is “just a fight. Of roosters”. (1973).

According to the author, what is significant is not the combat in itself, but the social meanings, the symbols, in short the culture which, according to Clifford Geertz, “is only a set of texts”which goes beyond written and verbal material. From a sociological point of view, to read the game as a text is to show its aspect as a rite or a hobby, it is to take a step which allows to understand the emotions and the sensitivities which show through the excitement of the game. Crowd, like the despair of loss and the pleasure of triumph. These exteriorized emotions are spread over a common text. To attend and participate constitute for the Balinese a kind of sentimental education which reflects their own violence and all the themes associated with it: cruelty, animosity, male narcissism, rivalry for status, gambling, sacrificed blood. As such, it is clear that any collective phenomenon aims to “say something, to signify something” Our objective is to study Kabyle culture through their traditional games, a way of getting to know the Kabyles and discovering their culture. To use Geertz’s phrase, it is “saying something to someone else”.


6. Kabylie traditional games

In this paper, our purpose is to understand traditional games in their sociological meaning and to define them in the context of Kabylie society. A corpus of traditional games were collected from the Kabylie region located in Algeria. A mountain region in northern Algeria bordering the Mediterranean, located east of Algiers and Mitidja whose main city is Tizi-ouzo. We found out many, among these types of games, Radjma (target shooting). It is a game that is played during big events (marriage, circumcision). Before the departure of the bride, the men of the wedding procession (Iqeffafen) execute the target shooting under the sly gaze of the crowd coming to attend the show. It is about throwing the stone a certain distance to crack an egg. The players take turns attempting to hit the target. Another example of the game is “Thaverninte” (wooden spinning top or Zerbout). A piece of wood is cut with a knife into the shape of a spinning top. After having planted a nail at the point, the shooter must throw the router up and down with the palm of the hand in the direction of the movement, and before it comes out of the string, pull to give it a trajectory. Another games, the sliding game. It is played on large areas of land located on the average slopes of mountainous regions which are usually used for growing olives and figs. Covered with snow in winter, they become a field of attraction for children. This game consists of climbing to the top of an icy slope and then descending using the leaves of prickly pears, because its thickness and its richness in water make it easier to slide.

Although these games are psychomotor, played in solo. There are many quasi-games among them that players indulge in without concern for competition and without specific rules. As an example, the “Tiferfarine” game is a manufacturing game in which a reel must turn directed by the wind. The children choose a few figs that are not yet ripe and very firm but already big enough. They dig four diametrically opposed holes that communicate in the center of the fig. This is then pierced with a thorn that is fixed in a thatch held vertically. The child, using another straw, blows in the direction of the holes and the fig begins to spin rapidly on itself. There are others games sociomoteurs, played in group. For example, the games.

“Tikare”, which is similar to karate (sport),in which two players kick each other hard. We also find the game of Matreg el-lil, where two players stand face to face with a stick. A player throws his stick high in the sky, and the opponent must then aim and hit it before it falls to the ground. Another sociomotures games is.

“Takhatoumt-el Khatem”. Two groups of players face each other. All the players in one of the groups have their hands under a sheet or blanket, and one of them hides a ring in one of his hands. The opposite group tries to guess who has the ring. We scrutinize everyone’s reactions because there are often people who hesitate and are afraid of being discovered.

If the ring is found, they switch roles. The hiding of information is the criteria of this game. There are also festival games, for example, in the game Maafra, which takes place at every Eid festival; players separated by a river throw stones or pomegranate fruit at each other. All these games a part of daily life and rituals.

Daily life in Kabylie requires a lot of physical effort and a hard-working, strong and resilient body. The man must support himself thanks to the resources of the earth: cultivate, harvest the fruits, the grains… The woman must also be strong and provide for the needs of her family (weaving, grinding wheat, making pottery, draw water from the fountain…).

In addition, the work in the fields for men and women is done in groups. We see this community in the case of women who go to the fountain in groups of relatives and neighbors to carry water, and who also help each other to lift and put on their heads the huge sheaves from the harvest.

These agricultural works bring the children together. During these days in the fields, moments of relaxation are reserved for games, for the children who accompany their mothers to the fields, and for the young shepherds (Ameksa) who take their cattle to the pastures. Games are part of daily life and nourish the body and structure the behavior with expected social norms.


7. Example of games

7.1 Game name: qochra

Horma for the Kabyles means honor, which symbolizes the woman and the house. The respectability of the man, which is symbolized by the ‘Nif”, consists in protecting this honor from all defilement. Failure to meet this standard is for the individual to condemn himself to social suicide (isolation and shame). In this “Qochra” game, the sociological weight of this value is indisputable and is played by children.

7.1.1 Characteristic of the game

Flat terrain

Material: A cork ball and a curved end stick

Period: The first days of spring

Social network: One against all

Gender: Male

Start of the game:

A group of players with a curved end stick in a circle around a cork ball. At the draw, they designate the father. The latter is placed near the ball (his daughter).

Procedure: The father’s goal is to defend the ball by trying to prevent it from going outside the circle, which represents the house. The opponents, with their sticks, instead try to push the ball out of the circle. If the ball or the father (with his stick) directly touches a player saying, “This is your daughter,” the affected player becomes the father of the ball. In the event that a player grabs the lost girl and takes her to wife without the father managing to bring her home, the other players say that he is getting old, and they taunt his weakness by singing: “He got old, he got old, he went to Beni Kelleb and he ate a whole cake with a gourd of whey”. They also sometimes tie the ball under the shirt of the loser, who is then identified with a girl who has been made a child. The emotions in this game are very strong, and it happens that the father humiliated by the words of his opponents retires in.

Tears, also affected by the dishonor of the illegitimate pregnancy.


8. A look at socialization

  • From the previous descriptions, it turns out that games are a form of socialization which is transmitted through the rules of conduct approved by society.

  • In traditional games, socialization is at the heart of motor action insofar as it plunges the child back into his environment, and as a result the child subtly internalizes the systems of norms secret by society. The body in the game is not only a mechanical, biological object, but also a reservoir which absorbs all symbols, cultural rites. This is not done in a brutal way, but in a process of social learning.

  • In the game “qochra”, for example, the child in his driving behavior while defending the ball (the girl) from the opponents, thereby becomes acquainted with the norms and values ​​- which are required and which he must respect at all times. What is expected from a child to defend and protect his honor which is the sacred domain (the woman, the house). Any offense is an attack on honor in the Kabyle language (Nif). Hence, the purpose of the Kabyle games is to integrate the child into the social bath which is the village life. This process of “kabylization” of motor behavior, mediated by the body, is only a means of interiorizing social behavior specific to the Kabyle communities.


9. Conclusion

It is clear that traditional games constitute a heritage of great wealth and a major source of information for the ethnologist.However; it is surprising that it has not been further exploited. It could be due to the mentality that prejudges traditional sports games as optional, uninteresting and old-fashioned objects; According to the general expression of those interviewed about traditional play practices in children’s leisure games today, the answer is often: “Times have changed, this is a game from before.”

The loss of traditional games is a factor of considerable cultural impoverishment which creates emptiness and boredom in the villages and reinforces the importation of another model of foreign entertainment: football, cinema, radio, TV (Warnier, Laburthe: Ethnology, Anthropology) [17].

Reinventing these games, taking them out of memory, instilling them in state institutions (schools, sports clubs), making them known to this new generation ... require that we question the mentality that believes that sport is the unique model of excellence. To change this dilemma, it is up to sports managers and school educators to find solutions to reinvent games in children’s sports activities as an identity cultural heritage, so that they know themselves as well as others. As Joseba Extxebeste suggested it so rightly: “It is not a question of seeing with nostalgia a time gone by, but of reinventing the traditional playful culture by adapting it to the needs and to the reality of our days. ”(Extxebeste Joseba, [15]).


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Written By

Soraya Dodoo

Submitted: 24 May 2021 Reviewed: 16 June 2021 Published: 23 November 2021