Ayo: Game from Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso Map

This unique Count and Capture board was purchased by the Museum in 1982 at a shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The shop owner indicated that the board was acquired from Upper Volta (the then political name of Burkina Faso).

The board is unique in the Museum collection because of its design and origins. It is the largest of the Count and Capture boards in the collection, 60cm long x 17cm wide x 17.8cm high. Although similar to boards in the collection having 2 rows of 6 depressions (these are 6.5cm diameter), this board has turret shaped covered containers (8cm diameter x 8.5cm high) at each end. The turret shaped covered containers are intended to be used as "stores".

Ayo Board

The board is also carved onto raised legs. The dark wood from which the board was carved is not known. The turret covers are attached with twine - but this may be an after thought. 150 polished stones were delivered with the board, but are believed not to be the original counters used with this board in Africa.

How the game is played

No instructions were received with the game. Since the board was carved in what was French West Africa, the artistic style may be Yoruba or Masai cultures which often feature elaborately carved boards on raised feet. Consequently, this may be an Ayo board and the play of that game (according to H.J.R. Murray, A History of Board-Games Other Than Chess, Oxford University Press, 1952, p.181) is similar to the Ashanti Wari games.

Ayo in Yoruba means "game" (according to Laurence Russ, Mancala Games, Algonac, Michigan: Reference Publications, Inc. 1984, page 29), and is the generic Yoruba word for several different forms of Count and Capture Games. Russ indicates that Ayo is similar in play to Endodoi, a Count and Capture game played by the Masai in Kenya and Tanzania.

Last update February 5, 2010