Mancala games play a major role in some literature (including "orature"), a minor in many more works. The following lists are meant as an overview on this rather neglected field of mancala research. It includes oral and written, native and western literature, legends, proverbs, poems, children's books and novels, but no scientific publications of any kind.

Traditional WorksEdit

Oral Literature
Title Ethnic Group Language Country Type Role Description
A Story of Abunawas Swahili Swahili Tanzania Story major About a game of Bao.
"Ayo proverb" Yoruba Yoruba Nigeria Proverb major The proverb can be found here.
Bao naligwa Swahili Swahili Kenya (Mombasa) Poem major Composed by Muyaka bin Haji in the 1820s (see here).
"Bao sayings" Swahili & Bajun Swahili Kenya, Tanzania Saying major Several Bao sayings are listed here.
"Bao song" Swahili Swahili Kenya Song major The song is given here, another version.
"Darra proverb" Hausa Hausa Nigeria Proverb major The proverb can be found here.
Dồng dao Vietnamese Vietnamese Vietnam Song major Text and translation.
Elephant Beat Hare Mòoré Mossi Burkina Faso Folktale major Text.
"Giuthi proverb" Gĩkũyũ Gĩkũyũ Kenya Proverb major A Giuthi proverb is listed here.
God Leaves the Animals to Fend for Themselves Malagasy Bara Madagascar Tantara ("true story") major God's gifts are put into the pits of the first mancala board dug into the earth.
Golden Oware Counters Ashante Ashante Ghana Historical legend major The story of Ntim Gyakari, King of Denkyira, who was killed from the Juaben king Yiadom Adarkwa while playing Oware with golden counters.
Gurihoeseb Damara Nama Namibia Creation myth minor About the first man; Hus game between humans and animals.
Haiseb Invented the Stone Game Damara Nama Namibia myth major About the invention of Hus.
"Hus sayings" Damara, Namaqua Nama Namibia Saying major Several Hus sayings have been listed here.
Creation Myth of the Ila Ila Ba-Ila Zambia Creation myth major Explaining mortality of man; related to Chisolo.
Ishvara Devere Tuluva Tulu India Story (Paddana) major Husband and wife playing Cenne.
King Katakyie Akan Ashanti Ghana Legend major Explains why a popular mancala game is called Oware (text).
Kalobotry, the Sailor, and Ratrimo, the Monster Malagasy Sakalava Madagascar Myth minor Kalobotry teaches a monster Katro.
Koti and Chenayya Tuluva Tulu India Legend major Gambling for cashewnuts.
Kweku Ananse and the Wisdom Gourd Asante Twi Ghana Legend minor Ananse the spider won some wisdom from an old man by beating him in a game of Oware(as retold by Lisa Torres(.
"Layli Goobalay proverb" Somali Somali Somalia Proverb major A Layli Goobalay proverb is listed here.
"Lusolo proverb" Lega KiLega Congo Proverb major A Lusolo proverb is given here.
Manas, Epic of Kyrgyz Kyrgyz Kyrgyztan Epic major English translation of the lines mentioning Toguz Korgool.
Malumbe and Munyama Ila Ba-Ila Zambia Legend major Two rivals play Chisolo.
Nama Men Played the Stone Game With Diamonds Germans German Namibia Urban Legend major Diamonds are exchanged for marbles to be used as game counters.
"Ô Quan proverb" Vietnamese Vietnamese Vietnam Proverb major Text and translation.
"Omweso proverbs & sayings" Baganda Luganda Uganda Proverb & Sayings major Several Omweso proverbs and sayings are listed here.
"Ouri riddle" Cape Verdean Creole Cape Verdeans Cape Verde Riddle major One riddle is listed here.
"Oware proverbs" Akan, Ashante Akan, Ashante Ghana Proverb major Four Oware proverb is given here.
Paramale Ballal Tuluva Tulu India Story (Paddana) major Sung by two women, Payyu (the lead singer) and Kargi Mundaldaklu of Anjar village, Udupi Taluk.
Prince Adekanbi Breaks the Taboo Yoruba Yoruba Nigeria Story major The story spoken by African Gods through the Oracle of Ifa mentions Ayo.
Ruhanga's Sons Nyoro Nyoro Uganda Myth minor About Rusoro.
Ryangombe Rwanda-Rundi Hutu Rwanda Myth minor Two versions are known: "The Lion Godness" and "The Disappearance of Ryangombe"
Sankhambi and the Baboons Venda Venda South Africa Creation myth major Mefuvha game played between baboons and humans.
Shells along the way (?) (?) (West Africa ?) Legend major The legend of unknown origin was first posted on French Wikipedia (text).
Sindillo Maasai Maa Tanzania Creation myth minor Invention of En Gehé by Sindillo, the first son of Naiterogob (i.e. Eve).
Siri, Epic of Tuluva Tulu India Epic Poem (Paddana) major Numerous parts of the epic mention Cenne (excerpt from Abbaya's and Daaraya's childhood).
"Songo fun stories" Pangwe Songo Cameroon Fun story major Numerous Songo Ewondo stories were recorded by the German ethnologue Tessmann.
Sultan Darai Swahili Swahili Zanzibar Folk Tale minor Mentions Bao. Reported by Edward Steere.
Sundjata, Epic of Mandinka Mandinka Mali Epic minor About the founder of the Mali kingdom, mentioning Wori.
"Sungka riddles" Filipino Bicol, Tagalog Philippines Riddle major Two Sungka riddle can be found here.
The Bao of Masuche Tatoga Tatoga Tanzania Myth major Masuche tricked God in a game of Bao
The Bird Monster and the Motherbrother Wagogo Wagogo Tanzania Myth minor Explains why Bao is played without swallowing the stones.
The Chieftain's Sons Bassari O-niyan Togo Folk Tale minor Mentions Iworra, probably a variant of Oware; text.
The Fast Runner Matambo and the Cripple Jishegena Sukuma Sukuma Tanzania Folk Tale major Related to Isolo.
The Game Board Nebri (?) Ethiopia Folk tale major About a Gebeta board (story).
The Lion and the Eremite Damara Nama Namibia Creation myth minor The eremite and his wife play Hus.
The Origin of Livestock Nyangatom Nyangatom Ethiopia Myth major The complete myth, which mentions Amoru or Nikeles, and its meaning is given here.
The Son of Nimer (Fatma the Beautiful) Arab Arabs Sudan Folktale minor About incest. Mancala contest at the end of the tale, the stake being the removal of the loser's outer garment.
The Son of the Concubine Arab Arabs Sudan Folktale minor A women must be conquered by defeating her in Mangala.
The Stone Game of the Lions Damara Nama Namibia Creation myth major Hus game between animals.
The Story of Maiyage and Maipage Tuluva Tulu India Story (Paddana) major Two sisters are playing Sita ata while their parents are searching for husbands for them.
The Story of Siva Tuluva Tulu India Legend major About the founder of the Siri cult.
The Story of Sonne and Ginde Tuluva Tulu India Story (Paddana) major Women playing Cenne while their grandfather is preparing them for marriage.
The Timi of Ede Yoruba Yoruba Nigeria Poem minor The seeds of the Ayo game do not complain poem.
The Water Spirit Mende Mende Liberia Myth major About a king who was addicted to the game of Te
The Zodiac Animal Mijikenda Mijikenda Kenya Fable major Lion and hare play Kigogo.
"Tsoro proverb" Shona Shona Zimbabwe Proverb major A Tsoro proverb is given here.
Vinanaasakoni Tamils Tamil India Devotional song major Kriti by Saint Thygraja about male superiority featuring Pallanguzhi, sometimes misinterpreted as "chess"; translated text.
"Warri proverb" Antiguan English Antigua & Barbuda Proverb major A Warri proverb can be found here.

Written Literature
Title Author Country Place Year Language Type Role Description
Hezār wa-Yek Shab (Kitāb Alf Layla wa-Layla) Abu abd-Allah Muhammed el-Gahshigar (Arabic compiler and translator) Persia Baghdad 8th-9th century AD Persian (translated into Arabic) Epic minimal Based on orature; called Arabian Nights in Europe; mentions mancala in a game list
Kitāb al-Aghani Ali Abul al-Faraj al-Isfahani Persia Baghdad 10th century Arabic Collection of Songs and Poems minimal 24 volumes; brief mention of mancala

Modern WorksEdit

Note: References to mancala games are so widespread in modern works that only those are mentioned, in which the game plays a major role.

Children's Literature
Title Author Publisher Place Year Language Type Description
Alarmstufe Regen Daniela Dicker Bischöfliche Hilfswerk Misereor e. V. Aachen (Germany) 2009 German Comic Two boys from the town of Dori in Burkina Faso, Abdul and Ali, play Oware, while they are herding goats.
A Mancala Morning (?) School Specialty Publishing Grand Rapids MI (USA) 1997 English Short Story Malaika, the high school exchange student from Africa, teaches an interesting game. (Reading for Grade 4)
The Golden Oware Counters J. O. de Graft Hanson Ghana Publishing Corporation Tema (Ghana) 1991 English Novel About the Asante-Denkyira Wars with imaginary characters.
Trouble Jane Kurtz Gulliver Books Orlando FL (USA) 1997 English Picture book About a boy in Ethiopia who is distracted from goat herding by a mancala game made by his father.
Sungka and Smiling Irish Eyes Natalie Gonzales-Sullaway Imprint Books  ? (USA) 2003 English Novel On cultural identity.
Adult Literature
Title Author Publisher Place Year Language Type Description
A Game of Bawo Felix Mnthali (?) (Malawi) (?) English Poem The Poem
Chơi Ô ăn quan Lữ Huy Nguyên (?) (?) (?) Vietnamese Poem Text
Hun Sen Leng Bay Khom Yim Guechsè (?) (?) 2008 Khmer Poem Text
Matricide Marie-Jeanne Tshilolo Kabika L'Harmattan Paris (France) 1966 French Novel Description
Memento Mori Peter Strauss David Philip Ltd. Claremont (South Africa) 1983 English Poem Text
Pallankuzhi Raamesh Gowri Raghavan self-published Mumbai (India) 2011 English Poem Text
The Life We Loom Nikki Grimes Clarion Books New York NY (USA) 2001 English Poem Text
Thời gian trắng Xuân Quỳnh (?) (?) (?) Vietnamese Poem Text.
We don't talk too much Efua Sutherland (?) (?) (?) English Poem Text.
Miscellaneous Literature
Title Author Year Language Type Description
Bao La Kete AT 2011 Swahili Song Bao is said to be a lovable game. The singer tells that he was taught the game by his grandfather so that he doesn't play cards ... (more).
Mot Songo Martin "Martino" Atangana 2005 Ewondo Song "The Songo Man" in an album containing Afro-Pop and Jazz.
Sungka Alison M. De La Cruz (feminist poet and communication scientist) 1999 English Performance Analysis of societal and family-related expectations of gender-specific behavior and sexuality.

See alsoEdit


Agyeman-Duah, I., Appiah, A. & Appiah, P.
Bu Me Bé: Akan Proverbs. The Center for Intellectual Renewal, Accra (Ghana) 2001.
A Mancala Morning. In: Spectrum Reading, Grade 4 (Spectrum Reading Series). School Specialty Publishing, Grand Rapids MI (USA) 2007, 12-13.
Appadurai, A., Korom, F. J. & Mills, M. A.
Gender, Genre, and Power in South Asian Expressive Traditions (South Asian Regional Studies and Publications of the American Folklore Society). University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia PA (USA) 1991, 168-171.
Bamboté, P. M. 
Randonnées de Daba de Ouadda à Bangui. Dakar (Senegal), Paris (France) 1966, 44.
Biebuyck, D. P.
Lega Culture: Art, Initiation, and Moral Philosophy Among a Central African People. University of California Press, Berkeley CA (USA) 1973, 153.
Claus, P. J. 
Mancala (Cenne) in Tulu Myth and Cult. In: Claus, P. J., Pattanayak, D. P. & Handoo, J. Indian Folklore II. Central Institute of Indian Languages Press, Mysore (India) 1987.
Claus, P. J. 
Re: Cenne. E-mail to R. Gering, September 17, 2006.
Courlander, H. & Leslau, W.
The Fire on the Mountain, and Other Ethiopian Stories. Holt, New York NY (USA) 1950.
Daly, N. (Ed.)
Why Sun and Moon Live in the Sky: An African Legend and Other Folktales. Lothrop Lee & Shepard, New York (USA) 1995, 47-52.
Devlieger, P. J.
Frames of Reference in African Proverbs on Disability. In: International Journal of Disability, Development and Education 1999; 46 (4): 439 - 451.
Frobenius, L.
Schwarze Sonne Afrika: Mythen, Märchen und Magie. Diederichs, Düsseldorf (Germany) 1980
Handelman, D. & Shulman, D. D.
God Inside Out: Śiva's Game of Dice. Oxford University Press, New York (USA) & Oxford (UK) 1997, 107-109.
Haring, L.
Indian Ocean Folktales: Madagascar, Comoros, Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles. National Folklore Support Centre, Chennai (India) 2002.
Honko, L. (Ed.)
The Siri Epic as Performed by Gopala Naika. Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia / Academia Scientiarum Fennica, Helsinki (Finland) 1998.
Hurreiz, S. H.
Ja`aliyyin Folktales: An Interplay of African, Arabian, and Islamic Elements. University Press, Bloomington IN (USA) 1977, 83-85 & 137-139 & 161.
Jama Musse Jama 
Layli Goobalay: Variante Somala del Gioco Nazionale Africano. Redsea-Online Publishing Group, Pisa (Italy) 2002.
Klobah, M. 
Sowing the Seeds of Knowledge in Children's Literature: Sociocultural Values in J. O. de Graft Hanson's The Golden Oware Counters. In: Children's Literature Association Quarterly 2005; 30 (2): 152-163.
Knappert, K.
A Survey of Swahili Songs With English Translations. Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston NY (USA) 2004, 285.
Le Quellec, J.-L.
À propos d'un mythe Nyangatom d'origine du bétail. In: Cahiers Caribéens d'Egyptologie 2002; 3/4 (February/ March): 179-199.
Mapanje, J.
Gathering Seaweed: African Prison Writing. Heinemann International, London (UK) 2002.
Menzel, B.
Goldgewichte aus Ghana. Museum für Völkerkunde, Westberlin (Germany) 1968.
Merrick, G.
Hausa Proverbs. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co. Ltd., London (UK) 1905.
Owomoyela, O.
Preservation or Mummification? The Implications of Subjecting Traditional Texts to Modern Processes. In: Research in African Literatures 2007; 38 (3): 170-182.
Owusu, M.
The Sudden Return. Heinemann Educational Books Ltd, London (UK) 1973.
Perani, J. & Smith, F. T.
The Visual Arts of Africa: Gender, Power, and Life Cycle Rituals. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River NJ (USA) 1998, 119.
Quartey, K.
Trokosi: Wife of the Gods. Random House, New York NY (USA), 2009.
Schmidt, S. 
Einige Bemerkungen zum "Loch"-Spiel (Mankala) in Südwestafrika. In: Journal - SWA Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft / Scientific Society (Windhoek, Namibia) 1974/75; 29: 67-77.
Shackell, R. S. 
Mweso: The Board Game. In: Uganda Journal (Kampala, Uganda) 1934; 2 (July): 14-20.
Shackell, R. S. 
More about Mweso. In: Uganda Journal (Kampala, Uganda) 1935; 3 (July): 119-129.
Staewen, C. & Schönber, F.
Ifa - Das Wort der Götter: Orakeltexte der Yoruba in Nigeria. Franz Steiner Verlag, Wiesbaden (Germany) 1982, 64-65.
Starr, F. 
A Little Book of Filipino Riddles. World Book Co. Yonkers, New York 1909, 145.
Stayt, H. A. 
The BaVenda. Oxford University Press, Oxford (England) 1931, 310+355-356+364-367.
Steere, E.
Swahili Tales, As Told by Natives of Zanzibar: With an English Translation. Bell & Daldy, London (England), 1870, 29 & 37.
Strauss, P.
Bishop Bernward's Door, and Other Poems. David Philip, Publisher (Pty) Ltd, Claremont (South Africa) 1983.
Tessmann, G. 
Die Pangwe. Ernst Wasmuth A.-G., Berlin (Germany) 1912 (Volume 2): 310-315.
Townshend, P. 
Bao (Mankala): The Swahili Ethic in African Idiom. In: Paideuma 1982; 28: 175-191.
Tshilolo Kabika, M.-J.
Matricide (review). L'Harmattan, Paris (France) 2008.
Voogt, A. J. de. 
Limits of the Mind: Towards a Characterisation of Bao Mastership. CNWS Publications: Leiden (Netherlands) 1995.
Voogt, A. J. de. 
Muyaka's Poetry in the History of Bao. In: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 2003; 66: 61-65.


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By: Ralf Gering
Under the CC by-sa 2.5 license.

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