The Dogon Mankala Board from Mali, West Africa, is a fascinating artifact that embodies the rich history and culture of the Dogon people. This ancient board game, originating in East Africa and dating back to the 7th century A.D., has evolved into over 800 versions played across the globe. Mancala is more than just a game for the Dogon people, it is an integral part of their social and spiritual gatherings, serving as a means of socializing, bonding, and reinforcing communal values.
The Dogon Mankala Board is unique, showcasing several distinct features that set it apart from other versions. The board has only two rows of six cups each, and small, round, reddish-brown seeds called “awari” are used as game pieces. The gameplay in the Dogon version of Mancala involves capturing as many seeds as possible from the opponent’s side of the board. Players take turns moving the seeds from cup to cup, with the goal of landing their last seed in a cup that will allow them to capture their opponent’s seeds. Once a player captures all the seeds on their opponent’s side of the board, they win the game.
As an anthropologist, the Dogon Mankala Board from Mali is a remarkable artifact, offering a window into the unique cultural practices and values of the Dogon people. It represents the role of games in society and serves as a testament to the enduring power of tradition and the human need for social interaction and connection. As you hold this remarkable piece in your hands, you are not just holding a board game, but a piece of history and culture. It offers insight into the ways in which societies create and maintain social bonds and is a testament to the enduring power of cultural practices to shape and define identity.