Oware, or Warri, is an ancient African game that has been likened to chess. Some scholars say the game was played as early as 3500 B.C. in the countries of West Africa as well as in Egypt. Thus, Oware, at times, has been called the oldest game in the world.

According to the following site, Oware History, “both stone and wood carvings of Oware boards have been found in the roofing slabs of the Temple of Kurna at Thebes and in the summit of the great pylon at the entrance to Temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt.”  The site also claims that “similar discoveries have been made in Zimbabwe, Uganda and the Sudan.”  And In Nigeria, where I photographed the two young ladies at the right, variations of Oware go by the names Ayo, Jerin-jerin and Ato J’odu. 

But a word of caution. This is not a game for dimwits or people with short attention spans. If you fall into any of these categories, I strongly encourage you to seek another path to glory. Oware calls for long-term strategic thinking and heavy doses of discipline. If you haven't been to the gym in 20 years, Oware is not for you.

My ancestors brought Oware to the Caribbean. Although it was played on St. Croix when my parents were kids, my generation grew up without it. I was in my mid-twenties when I first heard of this game. At the time, I was an employee of the Cooperative Extension Service, and my former boss, Zoraida Jacobs was trying to revive public interest in Oware.

Under Zoraida's leadership, we helped organize Oware competitions at the elementary and high school level. To be honest, I remember neither the rules nor the objective of the game. Rather than make a fool of myself, or risk having Zoraida "put me in my place", I'm going to refer you to the following websites:

Warri the Bajan Way (This site focuses on the way Oware is played on the island of Barbados)

Oware History (This site discusses some of the history of Oware; it also outlines some of the differences in the game from region to region).


Audio Clip: Interview with legendary Cariso Master, Leona Watson: Popular song about Queen Mary – one of three daring women who led the bloody 1848 slave rebellion known as the “fireburn.”
 

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