Kaku, The bellybutton game | Universidad Pedagógica Nacional, Mexico City | October 27, 2011

Kaku is a physical skill game based on the stages of life in the na savi culture (‘people of the rain’, who don’t accept being called “mixtecos”, since they consider it pejorative). The goal of the game is listening to the names of the stages in tu’un savi language (‘the sounds of the tongue of rain”) y with that learn about the cosmovision of life and death.

The idea of the game was born in the Art and Education workshop organized with the students of the Bachelors in Indigenous Education at the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional. We wanted to disseminate forms of non-academic teaching-learning and relate them with an artistic practice that would generate knowledge. The participants would narrate the habits and customs of their home towns. The most recurring subject was the life cycle since the explanation of the world depends on how that cycle is formed. For example, among the nahuas, the umbilical cord is buried next to a maguey, a plant that grows in many directions. This means that the kid will go in many directions but at the same time will grow roots. This costume was the basis of the entire game. Maricela Tenorio, of na savi origin worked until the end of the process and it was with her that we decided to synthesize the cutoms with the image of the maguey as a symbol of birth. The stages considered were: kaku (‘birth’), leé (‘baby’), ña lo’o gundia (‘little girl’), ña lo’o (‘girl’), ña kúaa (‘youngster’), nana (‘madam’),

nana xa’nu (‘grandmother that keeps growing’).

The game is played with two teams of three players and two referees. The six players position themselves around a wooden maguey with removable stalks that can be built together. Each player has a ribbon with a stage of life written in tu’un savi. At the first sign of the referee all players run and stop at the second. The players draw a circle in the place where they stopped and write the name of their ribbon. Each of these circles corresponds to a stage of life. Afterwards, all the players go to the leé circle. The race starts there: The teams must cross from a stage to the other solving a challenge and winning stalks for each obstacle. To fulfill the cycle they must return to leé and build a balanced figure with the stalks they gathered. The first team that builds a structure win. The game turned out to be really fun but our conclusion is that the deepest learning was actually designing it.