African cultural heritage is under threat and we are gradually losing our identity as a people. This is because we are failing to pay attention to the little details that represent our traditions. We are allowing western ideologies to wash them away like sand on the seashore.
Our minds have been colonized and with each passing day, a part of us dies. Our games, dance, music, food, and language are gradually dying away with time and freely; we embrace western ideologies.
Like many other African identities, Ayo Olopon or Ayo as it is otherwise known; which is reputed to be one of the oldest and most widely played board games among the Yorubas, is gradually losing relevance. The origin of the game is one of the most disputed facts in recent history as the game is played and enjoyed by Africans in different regions of the world, each claiming rights to its creation.
The game is on a long narrow piece of carved hardwood bearing few pods on each side; it requires a lot of brain power and mathematical skill.
The game is played in a carved wooden box, containing six holes on each side. At the start of the game, each hole contains four seeds (making it a total of forty-eight Ayo seeds).
Like Chess and many other board games, two individuals take the turn to play the game, counting the seeds on their side anti-clockwise.
The first player begins by moving seeds from his right-hand side to the opponent’s side. If the seed-movement terminates in a hole with three or less Ayo seeds, this player picks up the seeds, and seeds from preceding holes, if any.
Players take a turn until the seeds are exhausted.
Ayo is known under various guises in different places around the world. Some prominent examples of its names in different locations are Owari, Warri, Endodoi, and Kalah, to name just a few. It is believed to belong to a larger family of mancala games, and other variations of the game exist all over the world. The game is widely enjoyed and is reputed to be mentally challenging.
These days, the game – which has a lot of similarities to the tactical prowess of chess, is not as popular as it once was. But gladly, digital versions have granted a new lease of life that opened it to a whole new generation of players who appreciate the game.
The major question, however, is whether it is right for technology to replace culture and if it can retain the emotions and passion that this beautiful game evokes?
Have you played this beautiful game before?
Header Image Credit: Amessential photography