Jules Oosterwegel is one of those Defenders of the Playful about whom I find myself frequently find myself raving.
I first learned about him through his Playtime DVD, and later through his ever-evolving websites, the most recent of which is called Kidsplaybook.com – a wealth of videos showing kids, from more and more parts of the world, playing kids’ games, as kids sometimes actually do.
Yesterday, I finally got to meet him. And I was as deeply touched by the man as I was by his remarkable and seminal work in documenting children at play. Perhaps “mission” is a better word.
The first, a game he calls “Elastics,” as played by three girls in New Zealand. The girls had made a big elastic band, similar to what we know of as a “Chinese Jump Rope.” But they were doing something different with it. Something that Jules found worthy of amazement.
Jules couldn’t stop talking about the agility of the girl jumping the elastic as it got raised, stage by stage. His deep admiration for the accomplishments of that child raised my admiration for him, a little higher and again a little higher as he talked again and again about the beauty of the game and the skill of the player.
And then there was one more game that he absolutely had to share with me. A game he saw on his last visit to the States.
You, of course, know the game as tetherball. I wish you could have been there with me to listen to Jules talk about the game, about how the children were driving each other past exhaustion, about the manifest depth of the friendship between them.
Jules funds most of his work himself. He is not trying to make a business out of it, but a life. Traveling the world, capturing moving images, sometimes deeply moving, of children creating fun for each other, often out of nothing more than a shared need to celebrate life.