What is Osani, The Circle Game?

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The Circle Game is simple and profound children’s pastime. Kids start with their feet all touching and then take turns naming circular objects, concepts and natural cycles: They may name literal circles like oranges, eyeballs, and the sun… or round concepts like the phases of the moon, a full pregnancy, the changing of the seasons.  When a player runs out of circular or cyclical concepts they leave the group, until only one wise and creative child remains.  It is said that child will live long and prosper. "Osani" is the Efe word for "love".

I fell in love with this image the first time I saw it, printed just one-inch square in a magazine. It was 1985 and I was sitting in a doctor's waiting room, reading. I immediately asked to use the phone. Calling the magazine editor I sought out the photographer, adventurer Jean-Pierre Hallet, who captured this moment in the 1960’s. 

 

Here I am with JP Hallet when we met back in 1985. I joined him at his shop in Santa Monica, CA where he sold beautiful beads and African artwork to support ongoing efforts on behalf of the Pygmies. His art collection was magnificent; portions of it can be seen at the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles.

Here I am with JP Hallet when we met back in 1985. I joined him at his shop in Santa Monica, CA where he sold beautiful beads and African artwork to support ongoing efforts on behalf of the Pygmies. His art collection was magnificent; portions of it can be seen at the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles.

I was lucky.  They gave me Jean-Pierre''s phone number and I discovered he lived not far away.  We met the following week. Jean-Pierre cared deeply for the Efe Pygmy people of the Ituri rainforest and their peaceful ways, and he dedicated decades to them, doing all he could to help preserve their way of life. Simply put, I was bowled over by the man and his passionate high regard and affection for these people. I also loved his photography!  Of all his wonderful images, this photo was my favorite. It’s a gentle reminder to stay in touch with the basics.

After 25 years of friendship I acquired the rights to the Osani image. I am saddened to report that Jean Pierre passed away just three months later. I am blessed to steward this image and have met wonderful people doing so.

The Circle Game is an antidote to busy days when core relationships and values are eclipsed by the distractions of modern life. Jean-Pierre called it “Osani”, which means “love” in the Efe language. This photo has hung on my walls for over 35 years, and I never tire of looking at it.  I’m sure you will feel the same. Prints have been gifted to celebrate births, memorials, birthdays, graduations and weddings. Cards make it easy to share with friends and extended family.

Now I can offer totes, laptop skins, T shirts, phone covers, and more. This is an all-occasion, no-occasion-needed image.  I'm certain you will savor it as much as I do.

Thanks for reading,

Susan Fassberg

 PS Still curious? You’ll find information about my writing career and other projects at susanfassberg.com. If you’re looking for “In a Word”, my card line which highlights words from other cultures that express universal sentiments, please visit my Etsy shop.