How cultural identity lives through sport.

Ivy Osei

Co-founder, SportDrive | MA'24, Western University
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There’s a big part of Ivy Osei’s life – and the lives of many millions of people in Africa – that she wants to preserve.

Not just out of sentimentality, but because it’s something at the root of their shared identity. And it’s at risk of becoming extinct.  

Ivy, a graduate student in Western University’s Sport Management program, is focusing her studies on the traditional games played in villages throughout Africa that are of indigenous origin – meaning they weren’t introduced to Africa through colonial occupation, like soccer and basketball.  

They’re games everyone knows, even though there have never been any written rules. One of them is oware, also known as mancala. It’s a game played with a board and pebbles between two opponents, the winner being whoever captures all of the pebbles. The game is ancient, existing since about the third century.  

“These games are fun, but they’re also a part of our identity, an expression of our people.”

Ivy was born and raised in Kumasi, a large city in southern Ghana. Her goal is to bring these folk games into the mainstream and safeguard them from being forgotten.

Ivy

ʼs
Impact
Principles

  • Fuel your purpose by setting a lofty goal.
  • Build community pride by identifying and celebrating cultural heroes.
  • Never stop playing – game and sport are valuable at all ages.

That is what inspired Ivy and three of her classmates in Ghana to start SportDrive, a non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on developing traditional games into standardized sports. She decided to pursue a master's degree at Western to grow SportDrive. Among the founders’ goals is to formally document the rules of the games so they can be followed by future generations, and to work with teachers to incorporate the games into school curriculums.  

In addition to contributing to the identity of indigenous people in Africa, Ivy says playing the games has a number of societal benefits.

“They are a good way for children to learn math and become disciplined. They teach life skills, such as tolerance and collaboration and how to develop ideas.”

And Ivy is eager to return to Ghana after her work at Western to continue to make a difference.  

“In Ghana and in all of Africa, we have our own unique identity, and we should build on that and put ourselves out there to the world as Africans. Our traditional games will help.”

"Having them go extinct is not an option for us – we really need these games to survive. I hope to see Africa represented through its indigenous games on the world stage one day.”

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