February 23, 2018: Mancala, Oware game board
By Ryan Gallagher
Mancala is a name used for a variety of board games played traditionally throughout much of Africa and the Caribbean. Oware is one such variant played primarily in the Ashanti region of Ghana. The game consists of a board, divided into sides, each consisting of a row of six holes and a larger hole (the storehouse) on the terminal end of each row. The game is traditionally played by two players. At the start of the game, there are four stones or seeds in each hole, and the object of the game is to capture more of these harvested pieces in your storehouse than your opponent. While it is a two player game, Oware is often played in public places and observer participation is encouraged. It has been documented as being an important tool for teaching children arithmetic outside of school, and the large gatherings that often result from watching the game are a popular way for people to socialize in the Ashanti region.
The board is made of native wood from the region and the pieces are seeds from the Guilandina bonduc plant. Not much is known about this particular artifact (77-1), as it was donated from a private collector who purchased the board and pieces second-hand.