The following is a collection of Omweso-related terms and expressions recorded in Uganda.

Luganda - EnglishEdit

(lit. "feminine") knock-out victory worth two points in a match (see rules of Omweso)
(lit. "billion") a rare case of emitwe-ebiri worth six or twelve points in a match (see Omweso rules)
the first seed dropped in okutebuka
(lit. "to cut off") the second count of the referee in a Blitz match, when a player hesitates too long; if he hasn't moved at the end of this word, he loses his turn to the opponent (see also omu)
(lit. "irreversible game") moves may not be taken back
ekiti (pl. ebiti)
memory aid in counting scores
see okutema (Tamale 2005)
ekyeso kyolutentezi oba ekitayalika
(lit. "non stop/unending move") never-ending move (game to be repeated)
(lit. "without counting") Blitz Omweso (moves must be immediately answered)
(lit. "counting") players may think as long as their opponent doesn't demand that a move must be done
(lit. "to cut off the head") to capture the contents of the the four ultimate holes (on the left and the right ends) of the opponent's rows
empiki (also mpiki
the seeds of the Wild Banana (Musa acuminata), called in Uganda omuyiki, that are used as counters in Omweso
essa (pl. amasa)
the pits of the Omweso board
opening moves
kyeso kyansanve
(lit. "the seventeen opening") a popular opening pattern in the 1930s (recorded by Shackell 1935)
kyeso kyanyinya
(lit. "the fourteen opening") a popular opening pattern in the 1930s (recorded by Shackell 1935)
the seeds of a bush (Mesoneurum welwitschianum) used as counters to play Omweso
short for empiki (Braunholtz 1931)
(short for:) Omweso
to cheat
special victory condition (see Omweso rules)
calling out an okutema (see proverbs for particular okulayira)
to sow (Tamale 2005)
(lit. "to go back") to move in a clockwise direction; reverse move (Shackell 1934)
the distribution of seeds at the start of the game
okutema (or ekutema)
(lit. "to chop") double victory worth two points; it is achieved through emitwe-ebiri
(lit. "to kill") to capture seeds
okwa bulijo
a normal victory worth one point in a match situation; it is achieved when the opponent can no longer move.
the right to move first at the start of the game
1. sowing (counterclockwise); 2. an inauguration ritual of the Buganda kings involving a game of Omweso
the first count of the referee in a Blitz match, if someone hesitates too long; see also ebiri
omweso (also mweso, omwesso or mweisho; pl. eznyeso)
1. the national mancala game of the Baganda people in Uganda; 2. omweso board

Omweso Sayings and ProverbsEdit

Sayings used in the gameEdit

"Jjajjnage Nnamuguzi e Kasagga."

"My ancestors Nnamuguzi and Kasagga!" - an okulayira. (Nsimbi 1970)

"Kino kye kyeso ekitayesebwa namuko!"

"This is the opening one dos not play with one's brother-in-law!" - Said about a player who is several points behind in a match when he sows the first seeds. The brother-in-law plays in Uganda the same role as in Europe the mother-in-law. He may give his sister to sombody else, if he dislikes the man. (Shackell 1935)

"Ku lwa Kabaka!"

"In the name of the King!" - Said in the Baganda kingdom before somebody was decapitated. Today a victory through emitwe-ebiri is announced by this phrase. (Shackell 1935)

"Kyeso kino ye musota g(i)uli mu ntamu."

"This is the snake-in-the-pot opening." - Ironic saying which said for a complicated opening. It refers to another Baganda proverb: "If you leave the snake in the pot, you get nothing to eat. If you try to smah the snake, you will break the pot." (Shackell 1935)

"Nkuyege zigulya!"

"Hurry up or the white Ants will eat the board!" - Said when a player thinks too long over his next move. (Shackell 1934)

"Nnannyinimu ali ku bbali."

"My friend, the guest!" - an okulayira. (Nsimbi 1970)

"Omugobe tansooka kuwera!"

"The loser doesn't precede me in swearing loyalty and bravery." - Usually the loser starts the next game, but the winner can insist to start if he says this proverb. (Nsimbi 1970)

"Omweso enkuyege zigulya!"

"The board is eaten by white ants." - similar to "Nkuyege zigulya!"; to demand a move in eky'okubala. (Nsimbi 1970)

"Toleka bafu mabega."

"Leave no dead bodies behind!" - Said when somebody forgets to remove captured seeds from opponent's pits during a move. (Nsimbi 1970)

Proverbs used in daily lifeEdit

"Akimanyi nga mweso."

"He knows it like a game of Omweso." - A person who is an expert on something is compared to an Omweso master. (Nsimbi 1970)

"Akutté mú lya 'mpiki."

"He has put his hand in an empty hole." - The situation of a person who find his belongings missing, is compared to a player who all of a sudden finds an empty hole where he had hoped to collect seeds. (Nsimbi 1970)

"Gw'oyigiriza okwesa akugobya."

"A person whom you've taught Omweso, can beat you with 16 seeds." - a student can exceed his teacher's skills and wisdom some day. (Nsimbi 1970)

"Mumpi ng'empiki."

"He is as small as an empiki." - Metaphorical for a very small man. (Nsimbi 1970)


Braunholtz, H. J. 
The Game of Mweso in Uganda. In: Man: A Monthly Record of Anthropological Science 1931; 31 (July): 121-122 plus Plate G.
Nsimbi, M. B. 
Omweso: A Game People Play in Uganda (Occasional Paper #6) . University of California, African Studies Center, Berkeley CA (USA) 1970.
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.
Tamale, S. 
Eroticism, Sensuality and Women's Secrets among the Baganda: A Critical Analysis. In: Feminist Africa 2005 (5).
Wernham, B. 
Omweso: The Royal Mancala Game of Uganda (Boardgames in Academia V). Paper presented at Board Game Studies Colloquium V, Barcelona (Spain) 2001 (21th-25th April).


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

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