Created: Sunday, 22 April 2012 Written by Don Green

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This beautiful wooden game combines Mancala, one of the most ancient and widely played games in the world, and the modern straight ahead gammon game of Uthini? with it's 19 traditional symbols from Africa. Uthini is a Swahili word and means Pardon? (As in excuse me, why did you make that move?) This is our original game which has its roots in Backgammon. The reversible board, set in a carved frame by yours truly :) Don Green, has detailed African animals that form a link between an Egyptian scene on one end and Cape Town South Africa on the other. The carved base is molded from recycled plastic and can also be used as a small storage container for the glass stones that are used in both games. See the video on YouTube.

Mancala.uthini 3

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- Left side image as packaged with label

- Right side image

- Egypt with Mancala board image

- Cape Town end image

- Game as candy container image

- Instructions

- See the video

The carved base is molded from recycled plastic and the surface of the wood board which is made from renewable sources has a non-toxic finish.
Living in Africa is colorful and full of richness beyond words and has much to teach us if only we take a moment to look. I have designed this game with 3 objectives in mind:
To introduce just a few symbols that are so omnipresent in Africa, from clothing to language, from ceremonial functions to art which represent the true depth and diversity of African culture. This is but the briefest explanation of them.
To introduce some animals through simple carvings. Carving is a very common art form and is available on road sides all over Africa;
And to make people aware of the game of Mancala, often called the African game, although it is played by many cultures and in many ways. This game is special for it is known to be at least three thousand years old and is still very popular. It has no element of luck, is simple to learn and yet is difficult to master.


The colors, shield and ceremonial spears and staff depicted on the front of the game were inspired from the flag of Swaziland, one of the oldest monarchies in Africa. I have modified the staff to include the large heavy head of the traditional African weapon called a Knobkierie. Dual symbols of defense and authority, the spear and knobkierie are lying down, symbolizing peace as on the South African Coat of Arms. The Gazelle is drawn in a highly stylized way which is very typical African.

UTHIN? - To find the definition of a symbol select the symbol below or just scroll down through them all.


Some of the following descriptions were sourced from the internet and I would like to express my sincere thanks to all who have contributed. Almost every living creature has superstitions, either negative or positive attached to it.

Three principal factors underlie the creation of African art. First, art is used to transmit the laws, moral codes, and history of each group to its young. Among most African peoples, boys-and in some cases girls-are sent away from their villages to attend bush schools for varying periods. There they are taught about the ethics, values, religion, and traditions of their culture that will enable them to become responsible adult members of their community. The art form most often used for this instruction is the mask, which may represent any number of significant figures within the traditions of the group, including ancestors, powerful spirits, cultural heroes, and important past or present members of the society.
Mask African masks depict spirit beings, departed ancestors, and invisible powers of social control. Each mask was made according to a traditional style, and each was worn by a trained performer. The African masks that hang on walls of Western art museums, detached from their full-body costumes, were originally part of whole performance ensembles, consisting of elaborately costumed dancers, vibrant music, and highly stylized dances. These complex ceremonial events expressed important social, religious, and moral values for the whole community. With careful attention to the masks' artistic and symbolic detail, it is possible to perceive these same values within the masks themselves. Figure sculptures are occasionally used for this purpose as well.

Second, African art serves to facilitate communication between people and supernatural forces and beings. Objects made to fulfill this function are chiefly in the form of human or animal figures. They are given their powers by religious practitioners who are able to make contact with the spirit world and to work with magic. Sculptures of this nature serve such essential purposes as warding off disease, natural calamities, and other evil; bringing fertility to people, animals, or crops; and rendering difficult judgments. They are frequently rubbed with palm oil and coated with other potent materials both to imbue them with their magical powers and to maintain their effectiveness. Certain large sculptures in this category are invoked to assure the general well-being of the entire community. Smaller examples are used by individuals to bring similar benefits to themselves and their families. Art is also made in Africa to indicate the wealth and status of its owner. Objects of daily use such as neck rests, stools, cups, boxes, staffs, and pipes are carefully carved to proclaim the taste and social position of those who use them. Much of this art is purely decorative, made to be seen and casually admired by all members of the community. Other examples serve to signify that their owners have undergone the process of investiture to become rulers and are therefore entitled to the prerogatives of leadership.
Art plays an essential role in the lives of the African peoples and their communities. It serves a much more vital purpose than merely to beautify the human environment, as art is usually employed in contemporary Western societies. The beauty of African art is simply an element of its function, for these objects would not be effective if they were not aesthetically pleasing. Its beauty and its content thus combine to make art the vehicle that ensures the survival of traditions, protects the community and the individual, and tells much of the person or persons who use it.

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