Before ‘gamification’ was a word, the Senufo of Ivory Coast were already leveraging its principles. In an effort to introduce competition, sport and fun into the arduous task of farming, young men work the land, swinging their hoes to the beat of drums, all in a bid to outwork their competitors, prove their power as labourers and demonstrate their speed and dexterity. The first to finish working his trench is declared the champion cultivator (sambali)—the ‘master farmer’.
The prize? A tefalipitya (meaning ‘hoe-work-girl’ among the central Senufo; called tyekparipitya among the Fodonon) staff. Not only do champion cultivators win the staff itself, it is said that the staff (representing pitya—a young, unmarried, and physically beautiful woman) is also a symbol of the future reward of the most beautiful girl in the village as his wife. There is no greater honour for a Senufo man than to be known as sambali, a title that stays with him until his death. Upon the death of a sambali, his tefalipitya staff is placed outside is home to guard his spirit.
Tefalipitya staffs have additional uses and meaning in Senufo communities:
Common features among all tefalipitya staffs:
Regional variations (Western style):