In the Service of our Ancestors and African Love,
Listen Seeker, I come in peace,
“Self-Determinant People Seek and Develop their own Peace, Possessions and Consciousness.” — African Blood Siblings Core Tenet
From Ethiopia to Kongo Mancala is a strategic numbers game. In Ancient Kamit, Senet combined luck and strategy in an exciting pasttime. Over a bowl of Joloff Rice two Africans are putting checkers to shame playing Yote. And among many curious minds the difficult magic squares are being made. Yet we colonized Africans play Call of Duty, Madden, Warcraft and the Sims, which not only pale strategically, but rely on us to think like them in order to succeed. Yet we the colonized will be the leaders? Only if we Sankofa first.
No people will truly be Self-Determinant without thinking like themselves (or as their ancestors thought.) The games assist. The games are a display of mathematical genius, of strategic prowess, of ancestral intelligence, of ourselves. Unfortunately, these games, in their online form, may not be created by African or created for Africans. So many among us can say that the representations listed below are not true to the rules. In fact, the rules of Senet from Ancient Kamit are claimed lost. Just as the rules for Chess may be. Nevertheless, with technology as it is, where one African can play another African across the globe, as a start, each of these games should be modified, where not only are the rules updated to reflect our ancestral rules, but a player, be they child or adult, can look at her win/loss record in Mancala and feel accomplished, and another can revisit the programming behind their favorite game to continue the legacy of Africans making
African Games for African Self-Determination and Intellect
Collected by Onitaset Kumat
According to Robin Walker,* the oldest artifact of Mancala was discovered in Yeha in Ethiopia 2700 years ago. The game is also known as Gebet’a in Ethiopia. Usually the board is 2 rows of 6 holes with two larger holes at either end. The players must capture more stones or pebbles than their opponent. Advanced versions are found in Central and East Africa: Bao, Igisoro and Omweso. In an old Ugandan Kingdom a newly enthroned King had to beat his Prime Minister in Omweso to symbolize his ability to outwit and defeat his subjects strategically. In that advanced version there are 4 rows of 8 holes each, each player having 32 beans to play with. Lela was another version popularized by King Shamba Bolongongo in the Kongo around 400 years ago. He wanted to dissuade his citizens from gambling and proposed Lela as an intellectual alternative. In the Ashanti Empire, Wari or Oware was played on golden boards shaped as the royal stool. In the Songhai Empire it was called Sudanese Chess. It was even brought to Surinam in South America where our enslaved ancestors called it Adji Boto. In America, the game is sometimes called Kalah.
A version of the game, likely made by a European, can be played here: http://www.kongregate.com/games/SkillPodGames/mancala
When my wife saw me playing it, she lit up in joy shouting “Is that Mancala?!?” As a child, her mother would buy Mancala sets on holidays. There is a King here in New York selling the boards at festivals, yet many of us walk by him, ignorant of our history and prefering the recreation the Euorpeans certify as alright. I encourage African people to try this European version above (if they never played Mancala) but learn the rules from an African player and create a better digital version so that I don’t need to recommend a European creation on an African site.
This is very possibly the oldest game in history. Not the first game ever, but the oldest game for which there is any evidence. Down here in Brooklyn, the Museum has the board game on display. It’s three rows of squares. As it were, Europeans claim the rules are lost. And since we are locked out of our own temples, I can not say what the rules are. There is a version of the game, likely made by a European, that can be played here: http://www.kongregate.com/games/BulemicHippo/senet
It’s two player, but it can be made to go online. Game development is not difficult. It takes learning a little programming. There are tons of sites for that and we are the smartest people in the world. This is another game that I encourage Africans to make so that I don’t need to recommend a European creation on an African site.
As a child I loved checkers and performing the triple jump whenever I had the chance. Yote puts checkers to shame. I don’t think I’ve ever heard much about Yote. I had found Senet a year ago and Mancala a week ago, so I searched “African” on Kongregate (where I found both games) and saw Yote and enjoyed it. This is a version of the game likely made by a European: http://www.kongregate.com/games/jpgame/african-yote
It’s said the game is popular in Senegal. This can be made two-player or mulitplayer (online.) Game development isn’t so hard. I intend to dabble myself. But we should be programming these games ourselves. I really shouldn’t recommend European creations on an African site. So Africans get to it. If you don’t know what you want to do with yourself, or you find yourself with extra time and nothing to read, learn programming and make African games.
Finally Magic Squares. A Magic Square is a table of numbers arranged such that every column, row and the two diagonals add up to the same number. This is something one can do with a paper and pad, although one can also do this online just for the fun of it. In 1732 a Hausa scholar from the University of Katsina, Ibn Muhammad, published a book with examples of three-order squares (3×3), five-order, seven-order, nine-order and eleven-order squares. As an example a three-order magic square can look like this:
4 9 2
3 5 7
8 1 6
Notice each row, column and diagonal add up to 15. It can also be reflected over an axis or rotated 270 degrees:
4 3 8
9 5 1
2 7 6
8 3 4
1 5 9
6 7 2
It’s known that odd-order magic squares must add up to a particular sum depending on what order the squares are. Finding this formula can be a mathematical exercise in and of itself. For your entertainment, I don’t need to type it out. Although Robin Walker included the formula in his book*.
A game like this is leagues more intelligent than Sudoku. A version on a phone that includes some numbers and challenges the player to fill in the rest would be a fun pasttime to give an African to challenge their mathematical genius.
These are games we once played. Today we waste our intelligence thinking like fools (Europeans). We are a long way from independent. We may need to learn their programming languages and study their literature just to create a game for ourselves. But as we start to veer in this direction, time may show that we have more to offer our children than money for the latest European creations. I hope this inspired you to take up programming. Here is a European site that should be introductory: http://www.gamedev.net/page/index.html
*Walker, Robin, “African Mathematics: History, Textbook and Classroom Lessons,” Reklaw Education Unlimited, London (U.K.) 2014 See: https://www.createspace.com/4925247