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 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.

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Order here or call 304 723-4553

- 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 of Don showing Uthini / Mancala in our booth at Toy Fair 2006
select Dream Green - thanks to TDmonthly Magazine

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.

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THE COVER ART
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.

Uthini


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.
http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/Sculpture/af_sculpt.html


AnkhcrossEGYPTIAN ART

The Ankh is a symbolic representation of both Physical and Eternal life. It is known as the original cross, which is a powerful symbol that was first created by Africans in Ancient Egypt.
The Ankh is commonly known to mean life in the language of Ancient Kemet (land of the Blacks) renamed Egypt by the Greeks. It is also a symbol for the power to give and sustain life, the Ankh is typically associated with material things such as water (which was believed by Egyptians to regenerate life), air, sun, as well as with the Gods, who are frequently pictured carrying an Ankh. The Egyptian king is often associated with the Ankh also, either in possession of an Ankh (providing life to his people) or being given an Ankh (or stream of Ankhs) by the Gods. This can be seen in the picture of King Senworsert below who is holding two Ankhs to his chest. There are numerous examples that have been found that were made from metal, clay and wood. It is usually worn as an amulet to extent the life of living and placed on the mummy to energize the resurrected spirit. The Gods and the Kings are often shown carrying the Ankh to distinguish them from mere mortals. The Ankh symbolized eternal life and bestowed immortality on anyone who possessed it. It is believed that life energy emanating from the Ankh can be absorbed by anyone within a certain proximity. An Ankh serves as an antenna or conduit for the divine power of life that permeates the universe. The amulet is a powerful talisman that provides the wearer with protection from the evil forces of decay and degeneration.
The loop of the Ankh is held by the Gods. It is associated with Isis and Osiris in the Early Dynastic Period. The Loop of the Anhk also represent the feminine discipline or the (Womb), while the elongated section represent the masculine discipline or the (Penis). These two sacred units then come together and form life.
The ancient gods of Egypt are often depicted as carrying ankh signs. We find Anqet, Ptah, Satet, Sobek, Tefnut, Osiris, Ra, Isis, Hathor, Anibus and many other gods often holding the ankh sign, along with a scepter, and in various tomb and temple reliefs, placing it in front of the king's face to symbolize the breath of eternal life. During the Amarna period, the ankh sign was depicted being offered to Akhenaten and Nefertiti by the hands at the end of the rays descending from the sun disk, Aten (See carving). Therefore, the ankh sign is not only a symbol of worldly life, but of life in the netherworld. Therefore, we also find the dead being referred to as ankhu, and a term for a sarcophagus was neb-ankh, meaning possessor of life.


CattleIn ancient Egypt, cattle were deified and regarded as the earthly representative of the gods. Egyptian Pharaohs were said to represent two gods. Horus represented Upper Egypt and Seth represented Lower Egypt. Horus was the son of Hathor who was depicted as either a cow or a strong bull. Another Egyptian god that is represented by a bull is the god of rain, a very important entity to the people of Nabta, considering that life or death could have been determined by the amount of rain they received.

Among the Nuer of the Sudan, the most perfect sacrifice is the most treasured possession a person can acquire—a cow or ox. Cattle not only have an important economic and utilitarian significance in Nuer society but they are also of great emotional, psychological, symbolic, and aesthetic value, hence the equation of all sacrificial objects with cattle. This is so much the case that, whatever is offered, be it a sheep, a goat, or a vegetable, it is symbolically regarded as a cow. Just as the concept of the ancestors permeates Malagasy life, so that of cattle is all-pervasive in Nuer life. There is cattle poetry, and there are cattle praise songs, and cattle honorific names, while the initiation gift and symbol of youth is an ox.

In African traditional religion the aim of ritual is to explain and control the workings of the material world. However, there is constant communication between the spiritual and material worlds, so as to restore the harmony between them that through human error was lost at the beginning, and the lack of which explains the precarious and incomplete state of the present material world.

The Maasai of Tanzania and Kenya have an expression “God gave us cattle and grass. Without grass there are no cattle, and without cattle there are no Maasai”. All over Africa cattle are given in payment of dowry and settlement of conflicts and ones wealth is measured by the number of cattle you own. The ancient African strategy game played with cow figures of MORABARABA is very popular. The game was originally taught to young warriors to teach them on how to make cattle raids.


Praying MantisPraying Mantis
The praying mantis has historically been a popular subject of mythology and folklore. In France, people believed a praying mantis would point a lost child home. In Arabic and Turkish cultures, a mantis was thought to point toward Mecca. In Africa, the mantis was thought to brink good luck to whomever it landed on and even restore life to the dead. The Bushmen of Southern Africa as a whole, are traditional tribal religionists and very closed to Christianity. They believe celestial bodies (sun, moon, morning star, and the southern cross) are symbols of divinity and the praying mantis is a divine messenger and when one is seen, diviners try to determine the current message. In the U.S. they were thought to blind men and kill horses. Europeans believed they were highly worshipful to god since they always seemed to be praying. In China, nothing cured bedwetting better than roasted mantis eggs.
See the complete story.


ElephantElephants symbolize wisdom, strength, moderation and eternity.
Elephants have always been used in African mythology as a symbol of strength, leadership and greatness. Even today the Venda people often greet important people as "nda ndou" which literally can be translated as "good day, elephant".

 

SunThe rising sun
An emblem of brightness, splendour and the supreme principle of the nature of energy, it symbolises the promise of rebirth, the active faculties of reflection, knowledge, good judgement and willpower. It is the symbol of the source of life, of light and the ultimate wholeness of Humanity.

WaterThe Bantu people and many others are united around the sacredness of water, and I know of no Bantu culture where water does not play a central role.( This original water symbol around the base of the carving and also the Uthini? Board symbolizes how water unites us all like a rope tying us together - Don ) " Bantu" is not an ethnicity but a language group. Originating in the Nok region of Nigeria probably 2,500 years ago, the Bantu were never what is dismissively called a "primitive" culture. Likely by way of Nubia and the Sahel Corridor, presumably ultimately from Egypt, they spread the working of iron and the beauty and complexity of their worldview over rather a large section of Central, South and East Africa from Cameroon to Kenya, from the Cape of Good Hope to Uganda. There are many Bantu languages and many Bantu cultures, and at the same time, they make a fairly coherent whole. - complete text by Michael Ortiz Hill

TokilosheThe tokiloshe was originally a water sprite and is commonly described as a brown, hairy dwarf that is invisible to adults. The creature is mischievious, but only malevolent when controlled by an evil sorcerer. (we might call him the boogy man). There is a widely held myth in Southern Africa that says the Africans raise their beds on bricks to avoid being attacked by the Tokiloshe.

ChameleonChameleon - source Myths & Legends of Southern Africa by Penny Miller
The Koi people and several other African groups share a common story that makes them despise the chameleon. The chameleon was given the message by the gods to carry to all man; "As I die, and dying live, so you shall also die, and dying live". He was so slow that the message was then also given to a hare. The hare traveled fast and spread the message to the chiefs who had to accept it. Unfortunately being hare brained he scrambled it; " As I die and dying perish, in the same manner shall you die and perish and come wholly to an end" and so from that day mankind has lived and died.

ToktokkieThe Toktokkie beetle – One of the hardiest beetles in Southern Africa. It is known as the Doctor of the {mosimage} road. He is a fertility symbol and always features in the wedding songs of the Xhosa people.

HyhenaHyenas - Myths about hyenas originated from confusion about their sexual activity. Male and female mate just as other mammals do, but male and female genitalia are quite similar in appearance. One theory holds that the female has a large amount of male hormones to increase her aggressiveness. Whatever the biological reason, the confusion inspired claims that hyenas could change sex at will. This notion led to accusations of witchcraft and the belief that witches can turn themselves into hyenas.

Unity The Nsibidi Unity Symbol in the writing of the Ejagham people of Nigeria
 


THE ADINKRA SYMBOLS (Willis, "The Adinkra Dictionary")

 

Originally designed by "Asante" Craftsment of Ghana, West Africa. The symbols embody non-verbal communicative and aesthetic values, as well as the way of life of the people who designed them.

LeadershipADINKRAHENE "Chief of the adinkra symbols"
Symbol of greatness, charisma and leadership
It also signifies the importance of playing a leadership role.


GodGYE NYAME " except for God"
The symbol of the supremacy of God
This unique and beautiful symbol is ubiquitous in Ghana. It is by far the most popular for use in decoration, a reflection on the deeply religious character of the Ghanaian people


CrocodileDENKYEM "crocodile"
The symbol of adaptability. The crocodile lives in the water, yet breathes the air, demonstrating an ability to adapt to circumstances. The Edo people of Benin City believe that the crocodile symbolizes power. The king or Oba is able to crush opposition like crocodile crushes its prey.

WisdomSANKOFA
" return and get it"
symbol of importance of learning from the past
Sankofa is the symbol of the wisdom in learning from the past in building for the future. (It is not a taboo to go back and retrieve what you have forgotten.)


DemocracyFUNTUNFUNEFU - DENKYEMFUNEFU
" Siamese crocodiles"
Symbol of democracy and unity
The Siamese crocodiles share one stomach, yet they fight over food. This popular symbol is a reminder that infighting and tribalism is harmful to all who engage in it.


FortuneMMUSUYIDEE
" that which removes bad luck" symbol of good furtune and sanctity


Wisdom KnotNYANSAPO
" wisdom knot"
symbol of wisdom, ingenuity, intelligence and patience
An especially revered symbol of the Akan, this symbol conveys the idea that "a wise person has the capacity to choose the best meeans to attain a goal. Being wise implies broad knowledge, learning and experience, and the ability to apply such faculties to practical ends."


Wisdom2MATE MASIE
" What I hear, I keep"
symbol of wisdom, knowledge and prudence
The implied meaning of the phrase "mate masie" is "I understand". Understanding means wisdom and knowledge, but it also represents the prudence of taking into consideration what another person has said.

Love PowerODO NNYEW FIE KWAN
" Love never loses its way home"
symbol of the power of love


Some Other Symbols
The star is an ancient symbol of hope for the future. It is also on about 50% of all African National flags, but this is due to the influence of Islam.

The Gorilla called Ngi or Ngui among the Fang and Nji among the Bulu is the symbol of fire and positive power (the chimpanzee represents evil).

Birds
In Africa the owl is associated with witchcraft and sorcery. To the Bantu the owl is the "familiar of wizards." In eastern Africa, the Swahili "believe that the owl brings illness to children." Zulus in southern Africa know the owl as a bird of sorcerers, and in the western part of the continent the bird is considered a messenger of wizards and witches. And in Madagascar it is said that owls gather with witches to dance on the graves of the dead.
To the Edo people of Benin, the bird symbolizes the king's power to overcome false prophets and fortunetellers.

Double-headed Serpent / Snakes The double-headed serpent reminds the Bamum people of Cameroon that their king once fought his enemies on two fronts and won. The Edo people of Benin City believe that snakes consume and destroy illness.

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Mancala-Uthini
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