Friday, August 31, 2012

The Awèlé Board Game (with rules)

Awale (known as: oware, awèlé or wari) is a very ancient board game that comes from Africa. 

An Awèlé Board Game
An Awèlé Board Game
It belongs to the big group of mancala games. In all these games the player must transfer pieces from one bin to another of the board during each turn. It is a fast and a dynamic game. The luck is not there implied. Only the practice allows to arrive at a domain high level. The rules of Oware game are simple and the game is really easy-to-learn. The origin of the game gets lost in the night of the times.

Oware or awalé with many names as for example: ayo, awale, awalete, awele, oware, wari, woli,... is played in western african countries as Senegal, Gambia, Cape Verde, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Cameroon. Also in the West Indies and in the Americas as for example: Surinam, Guyana, Grenada, Barbados, Sta. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica, Antigua and St Kitts, Dominican Rep., Brazil, etc. as a result of the slave trade that came from this part of Africa. 

An Awèlé Board Game

The Rules

The aim of the game:
To capture more seeds than your opponent. At the end of the game, the player who has captured the most seeds wins.

Rules of the game:
The board is divided into two areas, hollowed with 6 holes each. At the beginning, 48 seeds are distributed among the twelve holes (4 seeds in each hole). Therefore, the players need for play a 2x6 or 2x6+2 board.

The top row belong to opponent player. You own the bottom row.

The game turn:
Every player plays alternately. The first one to play is chosen at random.
The player takes all the seeds in a hole of his/her area and distributes them counter-clockwise, one in each hole.

If the last seed to be distributed falls into one of the opponent's holes, containing already 1 or 2 seeds, the player captures the 2 or 3 seeds.
The hole is left empty. The captured seeds are taken off the board or collected into the player's loft (if the players play with a 2x6+2 board).
Therefore, the hole can be captured only if, after distributing the seeds, it contains two or three seeds.

Multiple capture:
If a player captures 2 or 3 seeds, and the preceding hole also contains two or three seeds, they are captured too, and so on.
Capturing is only allowed in the opponent's area.

If the number of seeds taken in the starting hole is greater than 11, it constitutes a loop: the starting hole is left out every time in the distribution loop, and therefore, always left empty.

Feed the opponent:
A player is not allowed to "starve" his/her opponent: a player can't play a hole that leads to capturing all the seeds in his opponent's area. A player can be left with no seeds at all only if is impossible to feed him/her.

End of the game:
The game ends if a player has n seeds anymore in his/her area, and therefore can't play.
In this case, the other player captures all the remaining seeds.
Or the game ends if the game is "looping" (after some turns, the same board configuration is obtained again).

More information on the game is given by

Contributions with thanks from:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Benin Oba Commemorative Heads

Head of an Oba
16th century (ca. 1550)
Brass; H. 9 1/4 in. (23.5 cm)
The leaders of the kingdom of Benin in present-day Nigeria trace their origins to a ruling dynasty that began in the fourteenth century. 

The title of "oba," or king, is passed on to the firstborn son of each successive king of Benin at the time of his death. The first obligation of each new king during this transition of rule is to commemorate his father with a portrait cast in bronze and placed on an altar at the palace. 

The altar constitutes an important site of palace ritual and is understood to be a means of incorporating the ongoing influence of past kings in the affairs of their descendants.

Though associated with individuals, this highly stylized genre of commemorative portraiture emphasized the trappings and regalia of kingship rather than specific facial features. In the Edo world view, the head is considered the locus of a man's knowledge, authority, success, and family leadership. 

The burden of providing for his family and seeing them through times of trouble is often described as being "on his head." The oba is often called by his praise name "Great Head," accentuating the head of the living leader as the locus of responsibility over and for the Benin kingdom.

The idealized naturalism of this work reflects conventions of depicting the king at the prime of his life. The straightforward gazing eyes, which would have included iron inlays, possess the ability to see into the other world, communicating the divine power of the oba to survey his kingdom. 

The beaded headdress and collar are depictions of the king's coral regalia. Coral is of particular importance to the Edo because of its associations with the ancestral realms of the sea and to the immense wealth of the oba gained through ocean-going trade with Europe.

The relatively minimal amount of brass used to make this light cast and the proportionately small amount of regalia depicted indicate that the head was created during the earlier half of the sixteenth century. 

Art historians have suggested that over the centuries, as greater quantities of brass became available, casters had less incentive to be economical with the material, and the trappings of office worn by the kings of Benin became more ostentatious.

Document borrowed from the Rand African website

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Dogon Tribe of West Africa and the alien connection

The Dogon tribe can be found in a region in Mali south of the Sahara Desert. French anthropologists Drs Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen studied the tribe from 1931 to 1956. Dogon mythology is only known by a hand full of their priests. This is a very hard to understand system, not easily given to even the friendliest of strangers. 
The culture of the Dogon tribe in West Africa centers around a star in our gallery. Sirius A is a big, bright star, has two and a half times the mass of our sun. Sirius, or actually its companion star, Sirius B. Sirius B has ninety-five per cent of the mass of our sun The Sirius Star is in the Canis Major Constellation. Sirius is visible with the naked eye, its companion is not. Now what is really fascinating about this is how these people knew about this, after all they have no telescopes. Sirius B wasn’t even visible with telescopes until 1862, or photographed until 1970. Dogon astronomical lore is dated back to 3200 B.C.
According to the Dogon legend the tribe was visited by a race of people called the Nommos, which come from the Sirius system. The Nommos resembled ugly amphibious beings. It is believed that the Nommos gave the Dogon tribe knowledge about their solar system. For instance: Jupiter has four major moons, Saturn has rings, and the plants revolve around the sun, and not vice versa. These facts weren’t known until Galileo invented the telescope. 
After they landed, the Nommos released a body of water which they later inhabited. They could live on land, but preferred the sea. Oral stories, drawing and tablets, depict the Nommo with large fish skin running down their bodies. The Nommos were regarded as saviors and spiritual guardians.
Carl Sagan believes that our modern knowledge of the Dogon tribe came from westerners or Europeans, who discussed astronomy with the tribes’ priests. Sagan believes that if Europeans came to the Dogon tribe, they most likely would have discussed “astronomical matters”, and talked about the brightest star in the sky. This however doesn’t explain a 400 year old artifact that shows the Sirius configuration. It also doesn’t explain how the Dogon tribe knows how dense Sirius B is.
They also tell us that Sirius B has a 50-year elliptical orbit around Sirius.
The Dogons refer to Sirius B as Po Tolo. “Tolo”, means small, and po means star. The tribe claims that Po is composed of a material known as sagala, a mineral heavier then all of Earth’s iron.
While many parts of the legend are considered true ,there are some parts in question. For example, the Dogons’ believe that Sirius B once occupied the spot where our sun is now. Physics disprove this. Also, if the Dogon believe that Sirius A orbits Sirius B every 50 years, then why do they have their celebrations every 60 year? The Dogons believe there is a third star called "Emme Ya" . So far this is yet to be discovered. According to legend, the Nommo breath through holes in their collarbone.
The Dogon are not the only people that have a strong connection with Sirius, Sumer, Babylonia's Oannes, Acadia's Ea, Sumer's Enki, and Egypt's goddess Isis. The Egyptian goddess Isis which is said to be mermaid –like. The ancient Egyptians also believed Sirius was significant . Their calendar was based on the rising of Sirius. Even thou there is no solid evidence of a third star, in 1995 French researchers, Daniel Benest and J.L. Duvent, published an article which states that it is possible that Sirius is a triple star.