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Songo Ewondo

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Songo Ewondo
Other Names: Akong, Songa,
Songo, Songo'o
First Description: Günter
Tessmann, 1907
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Single laps
Region: Cameroon, Equatorial
Guinea, Gabon

Songo Ewondo, often just called Songo, is played by the Ekang (also known as "Fang" or "Pangwe") in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the northwest corner of the D. R. of the Congo. It is one of the most popular mancala games. In Equatorial Guinea, it is also known as Akong.

Songo is known for its rich orature of funny stories, which were recorded by the German anthropologist Günter Tessmann (1884 - 1969) in 1907.

The game is a popular mindsport in Africa. Songo competitions are held every weekend in Douala, Cameroon.

The game is promoted by the minister for culture and art and the president of the Republic of Gabon, Mr Omar Bongo Ondimba. There are plans to teach Songo at all the schools of the country. Over 200 Songo masters (called "nti") attend every year a huge tournament in Libreville. The president of the Gabonese Songo Federation called "Fégasongo" is Désiré Meba Me Fama.

The Spanish Cultural Center (CCEM) in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, organized in July 2012 its 8th Akong Tournament.

There were also Songo tournaments in France, such as in Bourges and Caens and even an Akong tournament in Spain (Madrid) in 2016.

The Songo World Championship in the village of Oyop (South Cameroon) attracts famous players from many countries. The current world champion is the Gabonese Vivi Metou. Other strong players are Endelé, Lévy Megne-Masseko, Narcisse Nguema, Davy Obiang, Ta-Ndong, Moulouma, Kamsi, Romy Nguema, Zuè Allogo, and Desiré Meba Mefame.

In 2004, a virtual Songo championship was organized by Nti Serge Mbarga Owona, a nti from Cameroon who at that time lived in Lille, France. Players were from Belgium, Cameroon, France, Switzerland, and the USA. Owona has also written several books and a strong freeware program playing the game. His web site about the game (songo.org) has, however, become defunct in 2005.

Mocking Song of the FangEdit

The woman who has no butt [ie. is ugly] says: "I wear a raffia skirt". - "Dumb-ass! Your father is covered with blains". Spectators, shouldn't we tell her: "Just put the stones on the board, we'll see what happens."

Recorded by G. Tessmann (1907)

RulesEdit

Songo is played on a mancala board ("mbek") of 2 x 7 holes. These holes are called "nda" ("house"). At each end there is a big store for the captured counters. Each house contains five stones called "songo" ("pebble").

A player controls the row on his side of the board.

Songo1

Initial Position

On his turn a player distributes the contents of one of his holes, one by one, clockwise into the ensuing houses.

The leftmost hole of a row may only be emptied, if if contains at least three stones unless it would be the only possible move. The hole may also be emptied, when it contains two stones, if the move results in a capture or if the opponent has nothing left in his holes AND it isn't possible to feed him with three or more stones. When a player has only one stone left in his row and this stone is in his leftmost hole, he captures it.

If a hole contained 14 or more stones, it is skipped and all the player's own holes that follow. The remaining stones are only sown on the opponent's side.

If the opponent has no stones left, he must be fed with at least seven stones. If this can't be done, he must get as many stones as possible.

A player must move at his turn.

If the last stone falls in an opponent's hole (except his first hole), which contained one, two or three stones, its contents are captured together with the last stone (ie. two, three or four stones).

If the previous-to-last stone also brought an opponent's house to two, three or four, these are captured as well, and so on.

If 14, 21 or 28 stones were sown, only the last stone can be captured, but nothing else.

If the last stone of a hole containing at least two stones ends in the opponents's first hole, nothing is captured.

If a move would captures all all an opponent's seeds, the capture is forfeited, and the seeds are instead left on the board.

The games ends when the row of a player is empty at the start of his turn, the board position repeats or a player has captured more than 35 seeds. Sometimes it will be agreed that the game terminates when there are less than 10 seeds left on the board or a player has captured at least 40 seeds, but this is not recommended for serious play.

The stones that are still on the board are awarded to the player who owns their holes. However, if the board position repeats, the remaining seeds are considered to be neutral.

The player who captured most counters wins. If both players captured the same number, the game is a draw.

Songo PuzzleEdit

Songo-P1

"The Power of the Head Hole" - South to move and win.

See alsoEdit

External LinksEdit

ReferencesEdit

Anonymous.
Meba Mefame et Nguema Représentants du Haut Ogooué à la Phase Finale du Tournoi de Songo. Agence Gabonaise de Presse, Libreville (Gabon) May 21, 2005.
Anonymous.
Vivi Metou Remporte le Premier Prix. Agence Gabonaise de Presse, Libreville (Gabon) May 28, 2004.
Bilongo, B.
Les Jeux Traditionnels Bëti du Sud-Cameroun: Songo et Agbe. Cameroon 1985.
Laburthe-Tolras, P.
De la Guerre comme Jeu in Guerres en Afrique Noire.. In: Cultures et Développement 1984; 16 (3-4): 503-510.
Meka Obam, J.-M.
Le Jeu du Songo: Reflet Du Social. Éditions L'Harmattan, Paris (France) 2008.
Mizony, M.
Les Jeux Stratégiques Camerounais et Leurs Aspects Mathématiques. In: Annuaire de la Faculté des Sciences de Cameroun 1971; 6: 19-38.
Mve-Ondo, B. M.
L'Owani et le Songa: Deux Jeux de Calculs Africains. Découverts du Gabon. Centre Culturel Français Saint-Exupéry & Sépia Editions, Libreville (Gabon) & Paris (France) 1990.
Murray, H. J. R.
A History of Board-Games Other Than Chess. Oxford University Press, Oxford (England) 1951, 184-185.
Owona, S. M.
Mon Grand-Oncle. In: La Tribu: Guide de la Communauté Noire du Nord de la France 2001-2002 (numéro 1): 43.
Owona, S. M.
Le Jeu de Songo. Éditions L'Harmattan, Paris (France) 2005.
Owona, S. M.
Les Jeux des Calculs Africains. Éditions L'Harmattan, Paris (France) 2007.
Powell-Cotton, P. H. G.
A Mancala Board Called Songo. In: Man: A Monthly Record of Anthropological Science 1931; 31: 123 plus Plate G.
Russ, L.
The Complete Mancala Games Book: How to Play the World's Oldest Board Games. Marlowe & Company, New York (USA) 2000, 14.
Sokolsky, R.
Structure. In: Fraser, D. (Ed.). African Art and Philosophy. New York (USA) 1974.
Tessmann, G.
Die Pangwe: Völkerkundliche Monographie eines westafrikanischen Negerstammes. Berlin (Germany) 1913 (Volume II), 310-315.
Tessmann, G.
Die Kinderspiele der Pangwe. In: Baessler-Archiv: Beiträge zur Völkerkunde. (Leipzig & Berlin, Germany) 1912; 2: 250-280.

Solution to the PuzzleEdit

1. 3! 4
2. 4 5
3. 5! 6
4. 6 1
5. 7(x2) 1
6. 1 2
7. 2 3
8. 3 4
9. 4 5
10. 5 6
11. 6 7
12. 1 or 2.


CopyrightEdit

Adapted from the Wikinfo article, "Songo Ewondo" http://www.wikinfo.org/index.php/Songo_Ewondo, used under the GNU Free Documentation License. The references section was released into the public domain by Ralf Gering on July 16, 2008.

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