- Museum number
Mancala ('warri') game board amde of wood. Two-row board with six playing holes on each side, two large storage holes at either end. Central columnar storage compartment for the counters. The board is supported upon four fixed wheels and is painted a blue-green colour. 36 cowrie shells counters, two black beans and one bone.
- Production date
Height: 25 centimetres
Weight: 68 grammes (game pieces)
Width: 22.50 centimetres
Depth: 63 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Mancala is an ancient game still played across Africa, Asia, the West Indies, parts of South America and the Middle East. The game's popularity may partly stem from the fact that it is easy to play anywhere. The pieces are seeds, shells or whatever comes to hand, and the boards can be dug into the sand or dirt, or even carved into rock. Wood is a popular material, partly because of the satisfying noise that 'sowing' the pieces into the holes makes. Unlike chess, mancala is not a quiet game, and the noise of play is often accompanied by the shouts of the players.
Two players or teams take it in turns to drop their pieces into the holes, moving them around the board in a set direction; the name 'mancala' comes from an Arabic verb meaning 'to move'. The aim is to capture as many of their opponent's pieces as possible.
Two-row mancala is the most popular version of the game and the easiest to play, but there are also three- and four-row boards. The name mancala is a generic term - the game actually goes by numerous different local names, and has a wide variety of playing rules. The two best-known versions are ayo, played in Nigeria, and wari, which is played across West Africa and the Caribbean.
Boards from Sierra Leone are noted for their decorative openwork bases. These are clearly more time-consuming to make and more expensive to buy and may be regarded as prestigious objects owned by people of high social status.
Wooden carved mancala board with 12 holes and two end holes, painted bluish green, with storage column in centre holding cowrie shell counters, and also supported by four wheels.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1997, London, Museum of Mankind (Room 2), 'Count and Capture'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Collection made by the donor’s father, Sir P.Crampton Smyly, formerly Chief Justice of Sierra Leone (1909-1911) and of the Gold Coast Colony (1911-1929).
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number