I was first introduced to the popular ‘two-player abstract’ strategy game called ‘Oware’ by a good Cape Verdean friend of mine. He told me about the cultural significance of the game in ‘Cape Verde’ and how common the game is amongst a wide variety of cultures, including Africans and the African diaspora.

At the beginning of the game, four seeds are placed in each pit. Players take turns moving the seeds. On a turn, a player chooses one of the six pits under their control. The player removes all seeds from this pit, and distributes them in each pit counter-clockwise from the selected pit, in a process called sowing. After a turn when the last seed was placed into an opponent’s pit, if that seed brought its total to three or more, all the seeds in that pit are captured and placed in the player’s scoring pit. If the previous to last seed played also brought an opponent’s pit to three or more, then that pit is captured as well and so on.

The name ‘Oware’ literally means ‘he/she [they] marries’ and is derived from an Ashanti legend about a man and woman who played the game endlessly and married so they could continue to play the game, endlessly…

The game is embedded in ‘African values’ by encouraging spectator participation, such as discussing the game with the players, marking it the most social two-player abstract. Oware and its variations have been used for entertainment and educational purposses. Often used to teach arithmic [mathematics] to African Children. 

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