Object 3: Oware

May 27, 2021


Oware is one of the oldest board games. It is played by two people and the objective is to capture as many as possible of the pebbles distributed in wooden holes. Its origin is from Africa. This object is particularly interesting for this exhibition because the same object belongs to different communities of knowers, and they each attribute a different origin to it. It is also very interesting to see what constitutes a community of knowers and how knowledge is transferred.

Different communities in Africa have different knowledge regarding this game. The name differs from one country to another. It is called “Awalé” in Ivory Coast and “Ayoayo” in Yoruba. Different legends also exist. For instance, the Maasai community, from Kenya and Tanzania, believes that the son of the first man, ‘Sindillo’, invented the game. Another legend in Ghana says a man and woman from the Akan ethnic group played this game until they fell in love and married. Different communities of knowers are constituted by people from different countries, ethnic groups or cultures. Knowledge known to each of these groups has been spread by history and legends, shaping each group’s beliefs. However, even though each community believes they are the creators of the game, all African countries use it for teaching arithmetic to children.

However, this game is now played in the Caribbean and South America. In this case, there is no cultural background to these new knowers. The knowledge comes from reading the rules of this game and can be known to anyone who wants to play it. Even though it is known as a board game in many countries, the actual knowledge of why and how it was played in African countries only belongs to people from that country. It is an example of something that belonged only to certain groups, but it is now a game that has been commercialized and played in many parts of the world, thus knowledge has been shared between cultures.


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