Playing it Forward by Honouring the Past in Accra

If she were alive today, Efua Sutherland would be chalking up her 94th birthday. For the good folks at the Mmofra Foundation it is a day, an anniversary, a life to celebrate. Sutherland was a truly remarkable woman. In 1950s Accra, Ghana she was a beacon of light extolling the benefits of play and helping to create public spaces where play could flourish.

With photographer Willis E. Bell, she published Playtime in Africa. This was the first real documentation of children’s play in the newly independent African nation.

Efua Sutherland’s pioneering work with play and children in Ghana lives today through the work of the Mmofra Foundation and its partners.

Sutherland’s advocacy for play was first shared with me six years ago by her daughter Amowi Phillips. In concert with the Mmofra Foundation Phillips is honouring and drawing on her mother’s good work in the spirit of sankofa – keeping what is of value from the past.

Mmofra continues to develop a natural play space in the heart of Accra. This week, Phillips sent PlayGroundology a selection of photos and an update asking us to share some of their successes.

“Mmofra Place has grown to encompass the following (not in any particular order):

– a site for experimenting with outdoor play prototypes.  We often use materials like salvaged wood, calabashes, repurposed inexpensive market goods.
– a green space open to children of all backgrounds and abilities – still one of very few in Accra.
– a site where children participate in designing, making, building, growing things
– a site for researching play”

“We’ve had hands-on climate education exhibitions, community builds using local materials, blood drives, reading events, cultural festivals, R&R for families with a disabled child and more.

Our experience is proving useful – recently, we’ve revived a derelict park in another part of the city of Accra, and we’re currently exploring how to make markets more child-friendly, especially for pre-school children of market vendors.”

Mmofra Place is still going strong and remains a beacon for kids’ play. All the best to those in Accra and throughout the diaspora who remember, honour and are inspired by a woman whose accomplishments continue to resonate today.

Sutherland was an untiring ambassador for play, an advocate emphasizing its importance in developing young minds and bodies. Her life of service established her as a cultural icon within Ghana and brought her work to the attention of a broader international audience.

PlayGroundology’s original story, Imagining a Better Future – Playtime in Africa can be found here. More recent reports are available in UrbanAfrica.net, in Architizer, and in a detailed report published in issuu

Thanks to the Mmofra Foundation and all the fine work they do building on Efua Sutherland’s traditions.

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