Some Nigerian Games,
with their Parallels and Analogues

Paul Brewster

Societe des Africaniates Journal, 24, 1954, 25-48

[Within this paper, Brewster describes 14 different games played in Nigeria and in other geographical areas. Some of these descriptions are short, and some rather lengthly. For three of these games, he provides graphic diagrams. At the end of the paper he offers a list of almost a hundred references. Since the content of the paper is one description after another without a break, to facilitate use of this Webpage a navagational listing which was not part of the original text has been created. A viewer can "click" on the name of a game on this list, and automatically be taken to Brewster's description of the game. By using the "return" notation, you will be returned to the following list.


  1. Nanpe
    [A "stick-dice" dexterity game.]
  2. Ibo
    [Guess how many things are in the hand.]
  3. Ekak
    [Find and hook a object hidden in the sand.]
  4. Cyc
    [Noose a tossed object in a string loop.]
  5. Kpokoro
    [A variant of "Follow The Leader".]
  6. Ifang
    [Guess how many things are in each hand.]
  7. Ise
    [A Moslem version of "Jackstones".]
  8. Ata Soc
    [A type of Charades concerning animals, birds, or fish.]
  9. Ikara
    [A bow and arrow special target game.]
  10. Alasusu
    [Find a hidden object in the sand.]
  11. Ido
    [Special equipment target game.]
  12. Ige
    [Tossing, catching, and arranging objects in a configuration.]
  13. Gueslure
    [A type of guessing game concerning scattered objects.]
  14. Ipenpen
    [A type of gambling game concerning guessing number of objects.]
  15. References

[Page 25] The descriptions of the games which follow I owe to the extreme kindness of Professor A. J. Udo Ema, Teacher Training Centre, Okene, Nigeria, and to the interest and generous co-operation of his students. The games were collected from among the students late in 1953, and the manuscript was sent to me in the early part of the present year. I should explain perhaps that the games were contributed in response to a request sent to Professor Ema for some Nigerian materials for use in my forthcoming book Folklore in Children's Games. However, since no restrictions were placed upon their use, I am presenting them here in the hope that readers will be kind enough to call to my attention any similar games elsewhere. I wish to emphasize that the collecting and describing of these games has been entirely the work of the above-mentioned individuals. My own part has been merely that of editor and annotator.



This kind of silent game can be played by as many people as wish. Materials needed are four flat sticks, each colored white on one side and brown on the other. Players are seated in a circle. Each of them may have a set of the sticks or the players may have one set agreed upon.

  1. Before the game proper begins, each of the players must have eight points. Each in turn tosses the sticks on the ground. If the sides turned up are all white or all brown, the player has made four points. If two whites turn up, he has made two points. If three of either the white or the brown are up, there is no count. [Page 26]
  2. qhadimu (Hold the bottom): The player throws up the four sticks and catches them by the bottom.
  3. roka (not described).
  4. famora: The player throws up the sticks and catches them by the middle, all whites facing the same way.
  5. nanpe (Throw up and catch): The player again throws the sticks up and catches them as they descend. No particular way of seizing them is specified.
  6. ise: This time the player catches the stick on the back of the palm.1
  7. ogedengbe: This is like 5 except that the sticks must be caught seven consecutive times without one of them falling to the ground.
  8. makanle (Don't touch the ground): This is much like 6. However, the sticks are to be caught on the middle of the palm and must not touch the back.

After executing the eight movements, the player throws the sticks on the ground. The number of points (two or four) they give him determines the number of lashes he is permitted to give the last man finishing.

If, while playing, a player drops one of the sticks, he relinquishes his place to another, and must start again from the beginning when his turn finally comes.

[In a Nigerian version of the game described by Newberry (pp. 41- 43) the goal is twelve points, and the player who is last to finish is rapped on the hand with the sticks by the other players. In this version also the steps are eight in number, but the names and the movements are different. In step 2 (riroka) the player stands the sticks on end in a bundle, using one hand, and then passes the same hand around them in a twisting motion, picking up the sticks at the end of it. As the sticks are seized, the thumb is uppermost and the palm of the hand faces the player. The movement must be executed five times. In step 3 (gbadimu) the thumb is downward and the back of the hand toward the player as he seizes the sticks. This, too, must be done five times. The sticks are placed on the back of the hand, tossed up, and caught with a, downward snatch in step 6 (elehinowo).

[Page 27] Four sticks or blocks, flat on one side and convex on the other, are used also in the Korean game of nyout (Culin i), the movement of the objects on the diagram being determined by the way the sticks fall. The longer sticks sometimes used in this game are employed also for the purpose of divination. Mlle Auboyer's description of some ancient Indian dice games (pp. 520-521) seems to indicate that such sticks were sometimes used instead of cubical blocks. In the game of vibhitaka the fruits of the vibhitaka (Terminalia Bellerica) were used. These fruits, about the size of hazelnuts and with five facets, were left their natural color and unmarked. In another game, pacaka, three marked slivers of wood or ivory were employed.

In Abyssinia five thin pieces of wood, flat on one side and convex on the other, were used by children for the purpose of divination (Mittwoch). If all five fell with the smooth side down, the thrower was called a peasant; if all fell with the split up, he was called a king.

Among certain tribes of Morocco a game of points is played with the quarters of a split piece of bamboo, the scoring, which is marked by pebbles, being based upon which side is turned up when they come to rest on the ground (Westermarck), The playing of the game, called sig, is prohibited when sunshine is not desired, as it is believed, because of the shiny appearance of the bamboo, that playing it is a sure way of causing the sun to shine.

In Liberia the players of a gambling game use four cowrie shells, the open side broken off and the remaining part filled with black beeswax (Schwab). In this game, a particular favorite among the Mano and the Kpelle, the player wins if all whites are up, if all blacks are up, or if two of each are up. If the shells come up three black and one white or three white and one black, he loses.

Aberle has given a good description of the Navaho tsidit (stickdice), a gambling game in which three slivers of cottonwood, blackened on the flat side, are used. It is interesting to note that, in contrast to the Moroccan belief, the playing of the game is thought by the Navaho to bring lightning and rains. For its popularity among many other American Indian tribes, see Culin (ii).

1There seems to be some confusion here. In another part of the directions they are said to be caught on the back of the hand.

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This word means "something done without your knowledge". Materials needed are seeds, though stones are acceptable. Any [Page 28] number of people can take part. Each holds a quantity of seeds. The first to play holds out in his closed hand a number of these, challenging the player next to him to guess how many there are. If the guesser is correct, he gets the seeds; but if not, he will give the other the same number as he holds. After the first player has taken these, he turns to the next with the same challenge, and this process is continued until a correct guess is finally made. The aim is to collect as many seeds as possible from the others.

[The usual name by which this is known in the United States is Hul Gul. The challenger holds out the hand containing the seeds (marbles, etc.) and calls, "Hul Gull" to which the player addressed answers "Handful". The next question is "How many?" and the second player must try to guess the number held. If he is unsuccessful, he gives the, first player the number held in the latter's hand.

According to Gutmann (p. 302), the Wadschagga playa similar game known as úra kukú.

American texts are given in Newell (p. 147) and English forms in Gomme (I, 218). Descriptions of the Gaelic game will be found in Béaloideas (III, 415) and Maclagan (pp. 126-27), where it is called buildhinn na cnapan.

For Scandinavian forms of the game, see Tillhagen (II, 69-70), Gustavson (p. 109), and Nordisk Kultur (XXIV, 57). The German game, Wäckelraten, is described in Lewalter and Schlager (p. 248), and Dutch and Belgian forms in de Cock and Teirlinck (IV, 79).]

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The number of players in this game is usually from two to five. The materials needed are the following: a) a ring about two inches in diameter, made of string or wire;' b) some small sticks about three inches long; and c) a pile of sand or sawdust.

All sit around the pile of sand or sawdust. Each player in turn inserts his stick into the pile, and then pulls it back toward himself. When each player (except the leader, who hid, the ring in the sand) has taken his turn, the leader takes his. This will happen only when no player has succeeded in hooking the ring. But if someone has succeeded in hooking it, he wins a point and gets to bury the ring in the pile. In other words, he has seized the leadership. Those who [Page 29] failed to hook the ring will place their open hands, palms up, on the sand, and the one who buried the ring hits them as hard as he can with a closed fist. The knuckles of the fist must not be used when hitting the open hands placed on the sand.

[In the game amensiok, described by Goichon (p. 66), there are three piles of sand: A bead is hidden in one, and the other players must guess which. Marthe Kuntz (p. 102) gives a description of a variant called yumbela, which is played at the time of the corn harvest. The players make several piles of damp earth, into one of which the leader puts a grain of corn. The rest try to guess where the grain of corn is hidden.1

Aboriginal Munda children of India (Chotanagpur area) play a somewhat similar game known as sukuri-gora-inun ("the pigsty game"). Hofman and van Emelen (XIII, 4099) give the following description. The game is played by two children, who construct a clay bank a cubit long and about four inches high and broad. The object to be hidden is a twig about an inch in length. The one to do the hiding puts his hands behind his back, holding between the tips of the fingers of either right or left hand the piece of twig. Then he brings his hands in front of his body and, holding the fingers of both hands similarly joined, passes them several times along the length of the sand bank, trying to hide the twig unseen by the other player. When he has hidden it, the second player is allowed to stick two joined fingers into the bank at three different places. If, in doing so, he unearths the bit of twig, he hides it next. If not, he will be led as a "pig" to the"pigsty". The ending of this game is, however, entirely different from that of the Yoruba and other African variants.]

1 Cf. GHlAULE (II), p. 214 (peney-penye).

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This is a game played by the Ibio in Southeast Nigeria. Players divide themselves into two teams of equal numbers. A toss is then taken to decide which of the teams shall start first. When this has been done, both teams arrange themselves on two single lines, each facing the other. The space between the lines is about twelve yards.

Each player holds a piassava string with a loop as shown (Fig. 1). The length of the string - handle with loop - is about eighteen [Page 30] inches, the size of the loop depending entirely upon the owner's taste and the size of the JyJ being used. One player picks up the cyc and throws it up toward the opposing team so that it lands with its head downward. If it lands on the ground it is out of play and no point is gained; but if a player succeeds in noosing it, it is in play and a point is made.

Noosing Game

The first noosing that a player makes in credited to him as a license to win points; no player is qualified for winning points for his team until he has made his first "catch". (There is always competition among members of the same team to be the first to noose the cyc.)

After the first successful noosing, the player who makes subsequent noosings captures prisoners for his team. He does it in this way. When a member of the opposing team throws the cyc to his side and he succeeds in noosing it, the player who threw the cyc is bound by the rules of the game to walk across to the opposing team as a captive. He will be there until he is able to noose a throw and run back to his own side. If, while he is attempting to get away from his captors, he is seized and the cyc is taken away from him, he continues in captivity. If he succeeds in getting away, he loses the cyc and [Page 31] throws it back to the opposing team. The throwing is done alternately by the two teams. The player to throw is the one who noosed the cyc last, so that it is common to find the captor becoming a captive. All sorts of tricks are put into the throwing to make noosing difficult, but every throw must conform to certain accepted rules.

A team that has lost most of its best players can ask for the return of some of them in exchange for the captives it holds. When one team has scored an agreed number of points according to the number of its captives, it is declared the winner in that set. Then the players begin another set. Often the game is so drawn out that only one set is played throughout the afternoon.

The following are the rules:

  1. The cyc must not be thrown below the player's height. It must be thrown high so as to descend on the opposing team.
  2. Pushing with intent to cause injury is a foul and is penalized by the loss of a point previously gained.
  3. No captive is to be chased beyond "No-man's-land", which is the line lying midway between the teams.
  4. If, after being noosed, the cyc drops out of the loop, no point is gained.
  5. When a team has been badly depleted, it can surrender to the other, in which case all its members in captivity return.
  6. If the cycis noosed and struck on the ground, it implies that the thrower has been vanquished. The hitting suggests smashing the head of the opponent. But if, while attempting to strike the cyc on the ground, the player breaks his string, the captive is freed.
  7. If two or more players noose the cyc at the same time, no captive is made, since a captive is a slave and a slave cannot have more than one master.

[Some similarity between this and the American Indian game of lacrosse (Culin ii) will be apparent. However, it would appear that the Ibibio game requires the more manual dexterity.]

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This is a game played by girls. The number of players ranges from two to ten or more. They stand in a horseshoe formation, with the [Page 32] leader in the middle facing the rest. The leader starts by clapping rhythmically and skip-jumping and putting forward one leg at a given number. The count is something like this: "One, two, thre-e-e-e-e, four" or "One, two, three, fo-u-r!" The pause comes at the underlined words.

As the leader puts forward her leg, the girl opposite her puts forward hers, too. To win, the player has to put out corresponding legs twice consecutively.1 If she puts out one leg correctly and fails to put out the other the second time correctly, then she loses and the leader passes on to another player.

Let us imagine that we are playing the game. I face you and begin to clap my hands in a rhythmical way. You clap exactly as I do. I then put out my right leg. I have to do it so quickly that you cannot read my mind about what I am going to do. If you put out your left leg, then you have one win. If I put out my right leg again and you put out your left, then you win two points and we exchange places. You go into the centre and start clapping and skip-jumping on the spot. One always starts from one end of the semicircle and works toward the other end, facing the players in rotation.


  1. Putting out the legs must be simultaneous. There must be no hesitation on the part of a player standing in the group.
  2. If the leader puts out her leg and a player facing her puts out the wrong leg the first time, the leader turns at once to face another player; but if the first player has put out the correct leg, she (the leader) gives her another chance.
  3. The leader who has been defeated must exchange places with the player who has made the two wins.
  4. The winner for the' day is the one who has become the leader more often than the rest of the players.

[According to Professor Ema, the game is based upon the story of a clever goddess, who comes to a group of young women offering to each in turn a crown, an opportunity in life. It is for each girl to read the signs aright and seize her chance at the moment it is offered. In earlier times the toes of both legs had to touch, but this part of the game has been dropped. [Page 33] With this may be compared the game of nzango, described by Mme Comhaire-Sylvain (pp. 352-353). Here, however, there appears to be no leader and the two opposing groups line up facing each other and begin their jumping and kicking. The action is accompanied by singing, and, as with the Ibibio, the game is played only by girls.]

1In a letter replying to my Inquiry regarding this statement, which puzzled me, Professor Emu wrote: "You want to know why the second player has not to put out the same leg as the leader in order to win. The reason is that the rule admits of only opposite legs and not corresponding legs being used at the same time to win ... I used "corresponding legs" when I ought to have said "opposite legs two times consecutively."

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This game is played by two or three players. A number of seeds, about seven, are selected. The player who begins the game holds these behind his back and transfers some of them into the other hand. Then he holds out both closed hands and asks each of the other players in turn how many seeds he holds in each hand. Every correct guess is a win. The winner makes a dot in the outer of three concentric circles drawn on the ground. Then he takes the seeds and repeats what the first player did. The aim is to see who will be first to reach the centre of the three circles.

When only two players are playing the game, after every attempt, whether it is correct or wrong, and the other player takes over the seeds. This gives both an equal chance of winning. But if more than two players are taking part, whoever guesses correctly takes over from the former holder of the seeds.

[This simple guessing-game is so widely known and played, not only in Africa but in all the other continents as well, that it seems hardly worthwhile to list the numerous references to it. It might be pointed out that the requiring the guesser to state the number of objects held in each hand is of infrequent occurrence, and that the method of scoring described here is unknown in most variants of the game.]

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This is usually played by two or four players. The only materials needed are a number of flat pieces of stone (bits of broken earthenware pots are better).

Each player has a number of flat stones previously agreed upon. A begins by throwing all his pieces of stone up, and turns the back [Page 34] of his hand to receive them as they fall. Not all of them will remain there, of course. If he succeeds in catching four, he throws them up again and this time catches them on the palm. If none drop from the hand, A will give them to B. B now adds this number to his own and goes through the same performance.


  1. If no stone remains on the back of the hand following the first throw, the thrower loses his turn and another player takes his place.1
  2. If, when he is catching them the second time, one or two of the stones drop, he is given one stone by each of the other players.
  3. The boy who gets the least number of points will be given as many strokes of the cane as previously agreed upon.

This game is played during the Moslem fasting period.

[In the game of sãbu'ã, described by Goichon (pp. 64-65), the player catches as many as possible on the back of the hand. Then he tosses up the ones he has caught and this time must catch all of these in his palm. He must give his opponent any dropped, and the latter is permitted to strike him on the calf of the leg with his second and third fingers together. As a conclusion to the game a player is asked by the leader to choose whether he will perform the halus, the amtaz, or the ardef. If he chooses the first, he puts all his pebbles on the back of the hand and then, sloping the hand downward, lets fall all but one. This one he then throws up and, while it is in the air, tries to pick up (at one grasp) all those on the ground. In amtaz all the pebbles must be caught on the back of the hand. The chooser of ardef must pick the pebbles up from the ground by ones, threes, fives, etc., as the leader may direct, holding all of them in his hand as they are collected. Somewhat similar to this is the B form described by Cohen (p. 487).

The game of mala, played in Fes (Brunet. p. 327), requires three players. The first player is the master, the second the workman, and the third the servant or slave.. Each is provided with the same number of pebbles.

The master takes all his pebbles in his cupped hands, tosses them up, and catches as many as possible on the back. Should he decide that there are too many to play well with, he causes some to fall by spreading the fingers or by inclining the hand. Then he tosses up [Page 35] the remainder, which he must catch in the palm of the same hand. If he drops one, he must give all to the third player. The last part of the game is the same as Jacks.

The Muria of India play the same game (Elwin, p. 580), as do also the Bhuiyas (Roy, p. 285). The latter know it as dhapa.

Tallqvist (pp. 143-145) has a description of the Arab laqut au bilxamsi, and the way in which the Simaloerese palo’ is played has been described by Jacobson (p. 11).]

1If he does succeed in retaining them on his hand, each of the other players contributes one each.

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Ata soc

Players sit in a row, their legs extended in front of them. The leader goes out to a spot about fifteen yards away and sits by himself. He is supposed to be the chief of birds, fishes, and animals. He calls out one or two players to act as his servants. Then he sends them in turn to the players stilI sitting in the row. Each messenger is given the name of a bird, a fish, or an animal. He has to imitate the creature he represents so that the player can guess its name. When he reaches the row, he starts at one end of it. He does not speak much but only touches the toes of the players in turn and asks, "What do you eat?" The player addressed gives the name of the animal, bird, or fish he thinks the messenger depicted. If his guess is correct, he marks down one point for himself and the messenger returns to the chief. If no player in the row makes a correct guess, the messenger says; "I go away with my (here he names the animal, bird, or fish represented)." When he comes the next time, he begins at the other 'end of the row. The player who has the greatest number of points at the end of the game is the winner.

[This combination of imitation and guessing is fairly common, but I know of no exact parallel to the game described.]

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This game is usually played by teams, although two players can play it. Players are provided with bows and arrows. There must be also an ikara, a ring of dry leaves of plantain or of fresh palm fronds tied securely with piassava or with string that does not wear [Page 36] off easily. The diameter of the ikara is usually from three to four and a half inches.

The members of each team stand in Indian file and shoot at the ikara as it is rolled past them. When once a player has shot it, the others do not attempt to shoot it again.

The player who has made a successful shot makes a circle on the ground with his foot. Those of the opposing team now come over, and each gets into the circle and tries to hit the ikara from there. The player who made the circle goes and stands near the ikara. Any player who misses the ikara when shooting from the circle surrenders his arrow to the boy standing by it. The latter collects these arrows and goes into the circle himself and shoots at the ikara. If he misses it with an arrow, the owner of that arrow takes it back. If the shot is successful, however, the shooter retains the arrow.

Sometimes, to add variety, long shooting is introduced. The opposing team is made to stand at its home base and shoot at the ikara wherever it lies in the opponents' camp. Each player takes one shot. If a direct hit is made, then the player who shot claims his opponent's arrow; but if all miss the target, the owner collects the arrows and shoots at his own target as in the previous case. When all have failed, then they go to try by the circle method already described. The aim is to discover the best shot by the number of arrows he has won.

[Variants of this game have been found in all parts of Africa. It is played by the Kamba (Lindblom, p. 423), the Ba-lla (Smith and Dale, II, 242), the Bavenda (Stayt, p. 96), the Thonga (Junod, I, 65), the Lango of Uganda (Driberg, p. 130), the Zulu (Krige, p. 79), the Ngala (Weeks, p. 151), the Chaga (Ovir, p. 435; Raum (i), p. 271), and many other peoples, including a Hottentot tribe, the Korana (Engelbrecht, p. 223). A lengthy description of the game as played in Nigeria has been given by Newberry (p. lff.), and Costermans (p. 538ff.) has described it as played by the Logo, Anneri, and others.

The game is known also in Australia and Oceania (Thomas, p. 139; Parker, p. 128). Bell gives the following description of pul um komo as played by the Tanga (p. 84): "Members of the teams form a long line, shoulder to shoulder. They then spread out, leaving a space of four feet between adjacent players. A disc about one and a half inches thick and six inches in diameter is cut from the base of a banana plant. This disc is bowled along from one end of the line to the other, and while it is trundling past each player, he attempts to transfix it with a spear. When all the players of one team have succeeded in [Page 37] piercing the rolling disc, they are judged the winners." In Kitui, according to Dundas (p. 544), "There are two parties which stand in a long row, along which a hoop is rolled. The party at the opposite end must throw their spears through the hoop, and must transfix it so that the hoop does not fall flat. One of the other party must then go on to their side and throw his spear through the hoop, which is often very difficult by reason of the angle at which the hoop stands; if he fails he becomes a prisoner and is called a 'woman' until one of the party capturing him is taken prisoner." See also Williams (p. 441) and Roth (p. 18). Fortune (p. 290) observed the game, keno kinoki, in Dobu, and has described it as a game of piercing rolling sections of banana tree stems with spears.

There are only slight traces of the existence of this game in Asia, though there are some indications that it was known and played in ancient Egypt (Wilkinson, I, 195).

It was enormously popular among North American Indian tribes (Culin ii), some of which still play it, and has been recorded from all parts of the continent. However, it came to its fullest development in the Plains area and in the Southwest.

Among some tribes (e.g., the Porno) the spear was not thrown but was thrust at the hoop as it passed. If the spear was knocked out of the player's hand, he was forced to leave the game. Sometimes the hoops were tossed into the air by members of one of the two teams, and the members of the other, facing them, attempted to catch these on their spears as they fell. In some forms of the game the hoop was decorated with beads of different colors, and the number of points scored by a successful thrower was determined by the color of the beads uppermost when the hoop fell over on his spear.

Targets used in the playing of this game show a very wide variation, not only from country to country but also within given areas. Thus, we find the hoop (with or without netting), the gourd, the solid disc of Woven grass or fibre, the section of plant stem or root, etc. Missiles found used are arrows, lances, forked spears, thonged sticks, and bolas. The fact that the latter are the most frequently encountered missile in the eastern part of Africa led Harrison to conjecture (pp. 153-155)1 that the bolas used in this game are a degenerate form of those found in palaeolithic sites in East Africa.

It is interesting to note, though perhaps of no special significance, that both the Ekoi of South Nigeria and also the Ababua play egele [Page 38], a "flying target" form, as follows: They use a ball made by tying together young leaves of the maize. One of the players of team A throws it into the air, and the members of team B try to "lasso it by means of a tie-tie looped into a slip-knot." The similarity between this and the game of cyc (No. IV) is obvious.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that this game is, or was, played by the Ainu. A brief description of it is given in Montandon (p. 148).

The most exhaustive treatment of the game is the recent study by Raum (ii).]

1There is a later article on the subject by the same author, but I am unable at the moment to give the exact reference.

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On the floor are heaped several small piles of sand (as many as desired). One of the group of children playing takes a small stone in his hand and approaches the piles. Touching each lightly, he hides the stone in one of them as the other children watch him. Then he calls upon one of the other players to find the stone. If the boy fails to find it at the first touch, the one who hid it wins a point. The latter then challenges the rest in turn to find the stone. If no one finds it, the hider becomes "king" of the game. In another form of the game each of the losers must give a marble to the hider.

[This game belongs to the same general type as No. III. A non-African variant which I have not previously mentioned is the Malay game main sûruk-sûruk described by Hervey (p. 296). In this game there can be only two players. They heap twiio or three quarts of sand or rice on the ground or on a mat, and make it into the shape of a grave. One of the players takes a small stone or a seed and hides, or pretends to hide it in the heap: He then makes two or three marks on the heap (these to mislead the other). The second player now searches for the hidden object. If he finds it at the first try, he wins and has the right to strike with the knuckle of the second finger the kneecap of the other as many times as may have been agreed upon before the game began. This continues until the kneecap is bruised, when the owner can have it smeared with saffron têrus and jâdam.]

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This game can be played by any number. The materials needed are 1) a number of seeds (these must be round) and 2) a piece of [Page 39] raffia palm branch about three feet long. The latter is squared off at the ends, and near one end is cut a shallow hole. The branch should be slightly elevated at the other end. Each player holds at least ten seeds to begin with. He drops one seed into the hole and then each player in turn rolls one seed at a time down the incline. When a player succeeds in landing his seed on top of those already in the hole, he takes out all but four, the others again add one each and the game continues.

Figure 2 Game of IDO

[The much more detailed description given by Newberry (pp. 88-90) varies in some particulars from that above. Players are usually two to six in number, and the game is played on the ground. The initial contribution of each player is given as two seeds. As each player releases his two seeds, allowing them to roll into the pit, he snaps his fingers vigorously, at the same time making the half- grunting, half-coughing sound heard when a cutlass or axe is being wielded.1 A seed is called esin (horse), and the players are named according to the order in which they shoot - oloja, eji, eta (One, Two, Three). The last player is called derisively omo-odobo (the awkward child). The most popular season for playing the game is from September to November.

[Page 40] Malay children play a somewhat similar game with a board and coins, which they call main gôlik pâpan (Hervey, p. 294). The board is fixed in an inclined position, and a coin is rolled down it. This is allowed to remain wherever it stops. Then another player rolls a coin after it. If the second coin strikes the first, he wins. If his coin misses the first, another player tries his luck.

Slovene children in Carinthia, and particularly in Styria, roll colored eggs down an inclined plank during the Easter season. In this game, known as tulkati or rolkaii, the object is to break the opponents' eggs. In Upper Carniola the eggs are rolled along a sort of shallow trench dug in the ground. Points are scored according to how the eggs are broken, whether at the end, at the side, etc. So popular is the game that the noted Jugoslav painter Maxim Gaspari has made it the subject of one of his better-known pictures. However, the Slovene game is hardly to be regarded as an analogue of the Nigerian.]

1This description fits exactly the technique of the crap shooter (dice player), colored or white, in the United States. The vocal sound accompanying the snap is on explosive Hah!"

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This game, known by the Yoruba as ige and by the Ibibio as uc can be played by several persons (4, 5, 6, 7, or 10). On the floor are seven fairly large pebbles (these must be small enough, however, for all seven to be held in the hand).

The first player picks up one of the pebbles and tosses it into the air, then quickly takes another from the floor and catches the first as it descends. All this is done with the same hand. He does this six times. If he succeeds in catching them correctly at each throw, he continues, this time picking up the pebbles two at a time (he is permitted to arrange them in two beforehand). This is done three times, since there are three groups. If still he has not failed, he picks them up three and three, then four and two, five and one, and, finally, all six at once. If he fails at any point in the game, another takes over and the first must wait until his turn comes again and must continue from the point at which he failed.

[This is one of the most ancient and most widespread of all games. The subject of its antiquity and early history has been treated at great length by Elizabeth Lemke in two articles, "Uraltes Kinderspielzeug," Zeitschrifi des Vereins fur Volkskunde, V (1895), 184ff, and "Das Fangsteinchcnspiel," Ibid., XVI (1906), 44-66.

[Page 41] Instead of pebbles, players may use marbles, beans, grains of corn, seeds, fruits, bones of animals, blocks of wood, etc. Sometimes these are used in common; in other instances each player has her own set of objects, including the one to be tossed up.

Figure 3 Game of Ige

There is great variation in the number of players participating and also in the number of pebbles used. In the Congo, for example, the usual number of players seems to be from two to four, while in the Jewish ghop bazi (game of bones) there may be as many as twenty or thirty girls taking part.The number of pebbles or other objects ranges from five in bacur (Goichon, p. 65) to twelve in the Dogon gokelle described in Griaule ii (p. 162) and, in some other forms of the game, to twenty or more. The number of actions to be performed by the player also varies greatly. In Miller's article "Das Fangsteinchenspiel in den Rheinlanden", Zeitschrift des Vereins fur Volkskunde, XXVIII, 26-41, are listed eighteen, all of which must later be gone through in reverse order.

The Valenge of Portuguese East Africa know the game as man gadi or manzadi (Earthy, p. 92), and play it with the fruits of the Solanum (tintuma). The objects won by a player are called her "children". Since the mistress of the initiation ceremony for girls plays this game with the coins given her by the initiates, it is possible, as Miss Earthy points out, that it may be thought to have some magical force.

[Page 42] In the Belgian Congo the pebbles are usually ten. As they are caught by the player, they are put in the left hand and are called mwana or "children" (Comhaire-Sylvain, p. 355).

Among the Mpama the game is played by two children (Windels, pp. 18-19). It is called boèle. As is usually the case everywhere, it is played only by girls.

The Ndau play it with 20-30 pebbles or seeds (Spannaus, p. 125). It is known among them as njeka.

The children (and the women) of Mzeb play their game of bâcûr with five pebbles (Goichon, p. 65). As in the variant from the Belgian Congo, the pebbles caught are transferred to the left hand. The left hand is placed on the ground in such a way that fingers and thumb form a kind of cupola, the doorway being the space between index and middle fingers1. This is the bâcûr, a name given the rounded palanquin in which the nomads transport their women. A player tosses a pebble into the air with the right hand and before catching it pushes into the bâcûr one of the four on the ground. The player is permitted to push the first three in with several little shoves, but the farthest removed, the "mother", must be pushed in - in one move. He then tosses up the fifth pebble, the "father", and must gather all the other pebbles into his right hand before catching it. 2

Cohen (p. 487) describes an Abyssinian form of the game as follows: The number of pebbles used is indeterminate. A player, seated on the ground, takes one of these (the first is called tõr, spear), and tosses it into the air. He must catch it before it touches the ground, first, however, striking the ground with the back of his hand.3 Still holding the first pebble, he now repeats with the second. If he catches it, he puts it in the left hand and continues thus until he has thrown and caught all. If he misses, he must start again from the beginning.

Among the Berbers of Beni-Snous the game is called qaïdoufaïdou (Destaing, p. 345). It is usually played by from four to six children, who use eight pebbles in playing. The pebble tossed, which is larger than the rest, is called bbâ (father).

The Sotho play a considerably more complicated form diketo, which has been described in detail by van Zyl (pp. 297-300). The [Page 43] number of pebbles used is usually eight. Each of the players has her own tossing pebble, which is called moketo. The other pebbles do not lie on the surface of the ground but are placed in the sekhudu, a hole about six inches in diameter and two in depth, and thus the picking them up is made more difficult. Any pebble other than the moketo is called ngwana (child).

Raum i (p. 269, n. 1) mentions the existence of the game among the Chaga, but gives no description.

This game, chkaïlb, is never played indoors in Morocco and Algeria. It is believed that to do so would bring bad luck (Doutté, p. 328). According to Mauchamp (p. 144), the playing of it in a dwelling will bring about a family quarrel, as will also the making of string figures indoors. The Abyssinians believe that the playing of the game prevents the coming of rain, and the older people sometimes prohibit it for that reason (Griaule i, p. 111).

Descriptions of the game as played by various peoples of the Indian archipelago are to be found in Hurgronje (II, 195), Geurtjens (p. 69), Jonker (p. 98), Schroder (I, 254), Kool (pp. 66-67), and other authors.

Descriptions of American forms are available in Newell (p. 190), of English in Gomme (I, 95, 122, 239, 259) and Folk-Lore (II, 266; XL, 373; LII, 8), of Hungarian in Lajos (p. 122), of Spanish in Marin (pp. 80-95, 150-159), of Swedish in TiIlhagen (I, 283-285), of Danish in Kristensen (p. 553), of French in Esquieu (p. 44), of Belgian and Dutch in de Cock and Teirlinck (III, 151), of Filipino in Reyes and Ramos (p. 66), of German in Rochholz (p. 447, No. 70), of Haitian in Denis (p. 56), of Sinhalese in Ludovici (p. 36). Korean forms will be found described in Culin i (pp. 58-59), Greek in Argenti-Rose (II, 1012), New Zealand in Best i (p. 29) and Best ii (II, 92-93), Brazilian in Cascudo (p. 5), Scottish in Maclagan (pp. 66-77), Kazak in Murdock (p. 153), Cassubian in Lorentz (pp, 86, 325).

The game is played also in modern India, where it is known as sagargote (beans). Objects used are either seven beans or the same number of square wooden blocks, often colored red and green. There is nothing particularly distinctive about the method of playing.

1This corresponds exactly to the way the game is played by Jewish children. They call the opening between fingers the 'gate'.

2As two of the pebbles are 'father' and. 'mother' the others are probably 'children' though they are not so called in the description.

3In the Hawaiian Kimokimo the player touches the other's tossing pebble each time before catching his own.

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Gueslure, or iyo, is played by two or more children. A great number of seeds are scattered on the floor. The first boy takes a [Page 44] number of them but doesn't let anyone know how many he has, He holds out the hand containing the seeds and challenges another player to guess the number, If the child fails to give the exact number, the seeds belong to the first boy and he keeps them separate. He now takes some seeds in his hand again and plays with another boy. If this boy guesses correctly, the seeds will belong to him. The game goes on in this way until all the seeds on the floor are gone. Then each player counts the number of seeds he holds. The one who has won the most is the "inner of the game, and he will now be the one to play or test others as the first boy did.

Sometimes the player may have more than nine seeds (nine appears to be the limit to be taken at a time). If the guesser thinks that this is the case, he will not try to give the actual number but will say "iyo", which means more than nine in the "language" of the game.

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This is a Yoruba game for two players. About 300 (or more) seeds are scattered about on the floor. The first player begins by dividing them into two roughly equal parts, for he is proud to be able to divide something equally without a measure or without counting. When he thinks he has divided them equally, he asks his partner to come and take the part which he thinks is the greater. The latter does so and then counts the seeds in both parts. If his own part is the greater (i.e. if his guess was correct), he gets one anini (1/10 d.) from the divider as a fine. The second player will now do the dividing and the first will make his choice of the two parts. The game continues thus until one of the players has won a shilling (or some other previously specified amount). This game is played by adults and is a form of gambling.

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Last update August 16, 2010