Posted by: savayla | October 15, 2009

Mancala Games

We are doing Malidoma Some for our Language Arts block.  This means two blocks of West African dancing, music, crafts, games, food, etc.  Immersing the girls.  I was at a loss for games until I remembered that Wari originated there.  This is the game which involves rows of holes (cups ) in which you move stones, beads or beans around and try to capture the most stones by the end of the game.

Mancala comes from the Arabic word “naqala” which means “to move”.  They cannot  trace the beginnings of the game as boards could have perished as they were made from perishable material such as wood.  One  that looked like it was even found in Cheops pyramid. But it is known to have originated in Africa where it is still played.

There are so many different types of games, using different number holes and beans, that anthropologists named the game concept “Mancala”.  This is almost like our card games in which we have so many different types of games originating out of a simple deck of cards.

The game also has so many different names ranging from Wari, Woro, Awele, Owari, Kbo, Ayo, , Kale, Aghi.  It is played by the Masai in Kenya and Tanzania and there is also a Nigerian version known as Ayoayo.   Nam-nam used to be the national game of the Ashanti Kingdom in Ghana, and is also played in Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

The game is said to have left Africa during the slave trade and gone through-out the Carribean and along the east coast of South America.  It didn’t take hold in the US, because the slave owners were trying to erase their new slaves heritage by prohibiting any of their traditional games.

As with card games, most of these games have different versions and varieties around the world.

I decided to introduce this game but did not have a Mancala Board.  I made this, with the help of a website where you can also get the rules and more of the history. .

This is the Wari game which has the most simplest rules.   Made with a simple egg carton.  The capture cups at the end are origami boxes reinforced with cardboard bottoms.  I used black beans for the playing pieces.    I played a few games last night and it was fun.  I beat myself once and came tie the second time.   Don’t ask, hubby thought this was the first sign of certifiable madness when I got excited that I had won.

Mancala Game Board made from egg carton, origami and beans


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