Oware: A Game from Ghana

Map of Africa

This board has a curious history.

It was purchased in 1981 by the Museum from an antique dealer in Ontario, Canada. The dealer did not know it was a game board and had purchased it in the 1970s from a tavern owner in Montreal, Quebec.

Board from Ghana

The dealer said that the tavern owner used the board on the bar as a holder for nuts and other things for patrons to munch on while drinking. The tavern owner told the antique dealer that he acquired the board from a seaman who traded it to pay part of his bill some time in the 1960s. All the tavern owner could remember is that the seaman said he acquired the board during his travels! No counters were with the board.

The hand carved wooden game board is 20.5cm wide x 58.2cm long x 24.1cm high. Fourteen depressions are carved into the board, 2 rows of six each, with a storage bank at each long end of the board.

FAO photo of game

A stylized leopard carved into the base is typical of certain traditional Ashanti carvings found in Ghana. The raised base is 2.1cm high x 38.4cm long x 17.3cm wide. Compare this board with the FAO picture to the right from Microsoft Encarta 1994.

H.J.R. Murray, A History of Board-Games Other Than Chess, Oxford University Press, 1952, page 181-183 describes the play of  games in Ghana. Laurence Russ, Mancala Games, Reference Publications, Inc., 1984, indicates that there are a number of names for this game in Ghana, i.e. Anana, Ba-Awa.

Last update February 5, 2010