Board Game Teaches African Heritage (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Board Game Teaches African Heritage

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
So we started today's show with games of a more electronic virtual sort, video games, and now we'll turn to a game that doesn't have quite so many bells and whistles, but it sure has a whole of heart. It's a board game, but a board game of a rather particular and personal nature.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:21
It was the brainchild of Paulette Mpouma, an immigrant from Cameroon who now lives in Laurel, Md. Mpouma and her husband raised four children in Laurel. and though the kids were culturally and officially American, Mpouma had always hoped one day they'd be inspired to learn more about their African heritage. But then one day, daughter Joelle, who's now nine years old, came home from kindergarten and said something that really unsettled her mother.

MS. PAULETTE MPOUMA

00:00:46
When she told me, like, all of the children of Africa have AIDS and I asked why, she said, because during black history month, they showed a documentary showing all of the children with AIDS and everything.

SHEIR

00:01:01
Mpouma corrected her daughter and ever since then, she's worked to teach, not only her kids, but everyone she meets more about African history, geography and culture. And she's done it in the most entertaining way she could think of. Emily Friedman brings us more on the Africa Memory Game.

MPOUMA

00:01:18
Whoo, you see? Five, six, she passed you. Yellow, yellow question. You see (unintelligible) .

MS. EMILY FRIEDMAN

00:01:27
I am killing it at the African Memory Game.

MS. EMILY FRIEDMAN

00:01:30
So you ask me a question.

JOELLE

00:01:31
What's the capital of Nigeria?

FRIEDMAN

00:01:34
Now, off the top of my head, I don't know the capital of Nigeria, but that's not going to stop me from getting the question right. See, I have a map right in front of me so I check it, then answer.

FRIEDMAN

00:01:45
Abuja.

MPOUMA

00:01:46
Abuja.

FRIEDMAN

00:01:49
Even though it feels against the rules, Mpouma says looking at the map is part of the game.

MPOUMA

00:01:54
I wasn't technically cheating, right? Because I used the map.

MPOUMA

00:01:56
No, no, it's not cheating. It's learning.

FRIEDMAN

00:02:00
The game board is shaped like Africa with the continent is broken up into a maze of spaces. You roll the dice, answer trivia questions and pay when you get them wrong. The first one to make it to the end wins. It's pretty straight forward and when the questions are easy, they're really easy.

FRIEDMAN

00:02:17
Where is Egypt? A, South Africa, B, North Africa.

JOELLE

00:02:23
What country is President Obama's father from?

FRIEDMAN

00:02:27
Other questions are not so easy.

MPOUMA

00:02:30
You have names like Baobab. A lot of people don't know what is Baobab.

FRIEDMAN

00:02:34
The Baobab tree is native to Africa and can grow nearly 100 feet tall and more than 30 feet wide. Also try this, name the three capitals of South Africa or the historical word for money in the ancient kingdom of Congo? Right. It doesn't take long to realize there's a whole lot most people don't know about Africa.

MPOUMA

00:02:56
When I look at the research, they found out that people was not teaching about Africa, most of the teachers. Because they would say it's too big to learn, it's taking too much time.

FRIEDMAN

00:03:06
Paulette Mpouma says she's most concerned when people learn a little something about one country and generalize it to be true for all of Africa.

MPOUMA

00:03:15
In the past, they have image of Tarzan and animals and jungle and having that image, you know, is not, like, bringing business in Africa thinking, okay, perhaps I will be kidnapped by a gorilla or something like that. I'm not going a little bit, but it's just to explain if we don't take the effort to teach, a lot of people will not be interested.

MPOUMA

00:03:36
One, two, three, four. You win. Nice winning, everybody's winning.

FRIEDMAN

00:03:43
Originally, Mpouma thought she'd sell the game to other African families and maybe to a few schools. Turns out she sold thousands to clients such as the Smithsonian, The World Bank and museums all over the world. She travels the country bringing the game to Pan-African events and festivals, but of course, she always keep a game or two at home. Her youngest, Blaze, says his favorite part of the game is moving his pawn around the board.

BLAZE

00:04:09
Just because it's a little bit fun to me.

FRIEDMAN

00:04:11
The older kids, however, have it a little rougher. Their mom brings out the game every few months just to keep them on their toes.

BLAZE

00:04:19
Six. His favorite number.

MPOUMA

00:04:24
What is the capital of Ethiopia? Look, you read this time okay. Don't just answer from your head. Ethiopia is here. Is it A, Antananarivo or B, Addis Ababa?

JOELLE

00:04:39
Ababa.

MPOUMA

00:04:40
Addis Ababa, good.

FRIEDMAN

00:04:42
With a new version of the game coming out this spring, including questions about the newly formed South Sudan, Mpouma says there's so much we have yet to learn. I'm Emily Friedman.

SHEIR

00:05:03
For more information about the Africa Memory Game, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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