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South African Journal of Childhood Education

On-line version ISSN 2223-7682
Print version ISSN 2223-7674


JOSEPH, Michael; RAMANI, Esther; TLOWANE, Mapelo  and  MASHATOLE, Abram. Masekitlana re-membered: A performance-based ethnography of South African black children's pretend play. SAJCE [online]. 2014, vol.4, n.1, pp.18-41. ISSN 2223-7682.

The extensive empirical research inspired by Piaget and Vygotsky's theories of make-believe play has been criticised for restricting data to Western, urban, middle-class children. We seek to redress this bias by researching the traditional black South African Pedi children's game Masekitlana. Our data relies on embodied memories enacted by Mapelo (one of the authors), and interviews with two other informants. The analytical framework draws upon 'emergent methods' in ethnography such as performance ethnography, auto-ethnography and memory elicitation through 'bodynotes' within a Vygotskyian orientation to play. The findings show that Masekitlana shares features common to all pretend play, but also exhibits others unique to it including: i) extended monologue, ii) metacommunicative frames for realistic thinking, and iii) a complex relation between social and solitary play. These findings support Vygotsky. However, 'the long childhood' of Masekitlana suggests that the stages theory of Piaget, as well as Vygotskyian ideas that have come down to us via Cole and Scribner and Valsiner, require revision in the light of Bruner's two modes of cognition and Veresov's reinterpretation of the theatre movement within which Vygotsky's central ideas are embedded.

Keywords : Masekitlana; pretend or make-believe play; performance ethnography; adult memories; Vygotsky's theory of play; auto-ethnography.

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