“Obwisana” and “99 Bottles of Beer”

11 Aug

Thanks to the mom who asked what country in Africa “Obwisana” comes from, I got to share that it’s a stone-passing game song that children play in Ghana (which added such a great layer of meaning to our egg-passing game in class). But, I couldn’t answer her follow-up question about what the lyrics actually mean. Mama Lisa and her blog have given me this loose translation:

Obwisana sa nana (The rock has crushed my hand, grandma)
Obwisana sa (The rock has crushed my hand)

I also learned from Mama Lisa’s blog that the stone-passing game fosters a high degree of cooperation and accuracy, two values that are highly prized in Ghanaian culture. If you’re not cooperative and accurate while passing a rock, it truly could crush your hand. When we pass eggs in class, we certainly do cooperate a great deal, and we have a ton of fun, but our accuracy leaves something to be desired. Thank goodness the stakes are lower with shaker eggs than with stones!


Sometime during the rest of this summer, when you’ve got a group of grown-ups and older kids together, try your own version of the “Obwisana” pass-around game. You could all sing that song, or you could just pick another (even “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” would work, but I’d be careful what you’re passing with that one!). Then pick something to pass around — lemons, tennis balls, walnuts, cheese sticks, whatever. You could share this Ghanaian origin story (which would score you global-coolness points with your hipster cousin) and I guarantee that the kids will have a blast — even the ones that are just watching the mayhem ensue.


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