Africa's Jumanji

Anyone who has ever watched Jumanji (or Zathura, its space sequel) must have had hair raising moments, like I did, during the course of the movie.
Roll the dice, wait for the token to move, wipe the sweat from your eyebrows so you can read clearly what the next step or consequence will be. More often than not, the next step is an even more shocking prelude to some unimaginable hazard guaranteed to send your heart racing.

Jumanji is the end of the game. Players are trying to get to the conclusion, a golden city/nirvana type of place, but in the meantime, all kinds of horrors are unleashed each time they roll the dice. There is a little succour once in a while, when in the form of a helper who is also limited in what he can do to repel enemy and wild creature attacks. There is a hunter, determined to eliminate all enemies. These enemies also happen to be the players of the game, trying to reach the end and get home, with a little assistance from the ‘helpers”- an astronaut or maybe the guy stuck in time.

Each time the dice is rolled, something happens. Most times, something bad happens. In Jumanji, a lion is unleashed, which immediately sets out to harass the players. They get themselves out of harm’s way by locking him in a room. Another roll of the dice releases strange monkeys which are more foe than friend. A third roll of the dice unleashes a natural disaster- a hurricane and its destructive power. Along the line, someone gets turned into a monkey, a Rhino herd goes on stampede inside the house, and the deadly hunter is released into the real world.

Not at all the kind of scenario anyone would have wished for.

Watching this movie reminds me of Africa. Hoping for the best (or maybe not). Rolling the dice every which way expecting a certain outcome, but more often than not, a Pandora’s Box seems to be unleashed no matter which way the dice rolls. One thing is certain- playing the African Jumanji and rolling the dice, in Africa, can generate unanticipated outcomes. You roll one way; the odds stack up in quite another fashion. Through games of chance and risks unknown to many in the western world, its one hair raising turn after another. When the bizarre becomes so mundane that the normal is often regarded as abnormal.

The Jumanji theme is the story of a quest, immortalized around the world in various languages and cultures. From the hunter wandering in the forest trying to get home, to the lost explorers trapped in lost worlds trying to find their way back to life as they used to know it, or wanderers in space seeking a way back to earth. The Jumanji and Zathura themes are not foreign or strange to Africa. Its one Africans live with everyday, and a tale which never ends with the telling.

Written by
M. Savi
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