“Killing a rat that is holed up inside an earthen pot requires wisdom.” – Nigerian proverb
A darkened moon hung over the horizon as the evening gave way to night. The glare of headlamps reflecting off roads leading out of the city centre increased with excitement. Hawkers and beggars, sliding in-between cars at their own risk, get an adrenaline rush. Across the capital, bars streaming hip-life music from self-built sound systems signalled the end of work for the week and the beginning of the fun. Booze, grilled tilapia and fried pork spiced up the air. The long-awaited Friday night had begun.
This is the sub-culture that claims the streets of Accra come Friday evenings. With no museums to visit, no art exhibitions to appreciate, no parks to relax in, no intellectually amusing programmes and very few noteworthy concerts to attend, the average worker is left with very few options – among them, hanging out with the booze-swigging crazies in a pub, or join the tongue-twisting, praise-quacking bunch in a charismatic church near you. In between the two groups, there are so many workers who can find nothing to do when it comes to unwinding after work. It is so appalling it scares thought to think about it. The unwinding culture is still looking for its place in a city and a country that has very little to offer when it comes to ‘play’ for adults.
In an era when productivity is stimulating an increased demand for creativity, work is fast becoming a lonely occupation. We are so thought-filled with work, many of us have become stressed and reclusive. We are gasping for air and relief from the suffocating grip of constant demands of work. This is affecting the emotional state of many, leading to the rise of anxiety, depression and problems of attention and self-control. Sadly, we do not want to voice it out for fear of being labelled as something that will fester toxic in our already bored minds. We cannot write off the stimulating moments we share with some colleagues during working hours, and sometimes out of work. But we need real space to nurture a little bit of ‘play’ time in our lives if we are to become truly creative and productive.
Life is best lived from a ‘playful’ angle. It is amazing how creative and productive one becomes when one is less tense about their work. You can feel a true experience of the environment in a manner that makes work feel like a part of you, and not as a task that has to be completed. We all know all work is a little frightening. We are witnessing what we used to sing about it when we were little. The stress level is going up among the populace – and it is being made worse in a city slowly strangling itself into a jungle of concrete, instead of trees.
With a layout that leads to nowhere, coupled with building after building sprouting everywhere with no spaces for parks, social centres etcetera, the city looks like it has no vision. And as we all know, without vision we have no purpose. This should not be happening in an era when cities the world over are regenerating to take advantage of opportunities brought about by technology and the green revolution. Sadly, we seem to be planting concrete anywhere and everywhere.
It is almost impossible to quantify the effects of lost ‘play’, but we are social beings and our social relationships play an important part in our wellbeing. Thus, the loss of ‘play’ time must be addressed for the sake of our sensibilities and society. Even without concretised policies and plans concerning the populace’s ‘play’, individuals have found ways of doing something for themselves – no matter the cost, and without regard to the price we will all pay at some future time. It is about time we woke up to the fact that we all need some ‘play’ amenities to help improve our lives. To achieve this, we all have to play a role in helping to regenerate our city.
The present focus on ‘socialised drinking’ is way over the top. We need other types of ‘play’ to enliven our creativity so that we can increase our productivity. We need to create spaces, and we need to enliven vacant places. The time is ripe to design, develop and support diverse, innovative and amenity-enriching projects and programmes that can improve the well-being of workers, and offer a much-needed ‘play’ environment to build up the capital’s tourism potential and enhance its image as a vibrant and innovative city.
We must understand that when we ‘play’, we often do what we love at best and what we like at least. The learning and psychological fulfilment helps us to connect deeply to our self-identities, and this brings out the best in us when we go to work. Further, ‘play’ helps us to regulate our emotions. We become less afraid of our fear, thus empowering us to deal better with stress and its related challenges. As our fathers always said, “We can learn wisdom at our grandfathers’ feet or at the end of a stick.” The ball is our court, as we say.
Kodwo Brumpon is an author, a life coach and a philanthropist who inspires individuals, groups and organisations to think and feel that which is true, by helping them positively respond to that which is beautiful while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions.
Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]