Mancala: The African game of counting and strategy – Black History Arts and Craft

Many Historians believe that Mancala is the oldest game in the world. The word Mancala means “to transfer” in Arabic. That is exactly what you do; you transfer, or move, playing pieces from one bin to another.

Mancala represents the diversity of Africa. Some version of Mancala is played in nearly every African country. It is enjoyed by royalty and commoners, adults and children, in cities and villages of every size.

Mancala has lasted for so many years because each past and present culture has been able to enjoy it in it’s own special way: as an important family game, a ceremonial right of passage, or a form of recreation among friends.

The type of Mancala board varies, the wealthy may play on carved ivory boards covered with gold, or it could be just a few holes in the ground with pebbles as playing pieces.

Play for hours when you create this fun African Mancala Game from recycled egg cartons and tuna cans. Great for all ages!

What you’ll need:

  • Cardboard egg carton (dozen size)
  • 2 Tuna cans; washed, rinsed, and dry
  • Craft paints
  • Paintbrush
  • 48 Marbles, tiny rocks, beads, beans, etc.
  • Instructions (see below)

How to make it:

  1. Paint the egg carton in the color desired. Let dry.
  2. Paint the tuna cans on the outside. Let dry. (If you paint the inside, the paint will chip off as you play the game.)
  3. Paint designs on the side of the egg carton and tuna cans if you wish. Let dry.
  4. Play your game with a friend or family member.


Object: 2 players compete against each other to collect as many marbles as they can before one of the players clears his side of the egg carton of all its marbles.

Setting up the game: Place the egg carton between the 2 players, lengthwise. The cups closest to you is your side of the board. The Mancala (tuna can) to your right is yours. Place 4 marbles in each of the cups. Choose a player to go first.

Playing the game: The first player picks up all the marbles in one of his cups. The player then starts to the first cup to the right and starts dropping one marble in each. If he reaches the end of his side, he is to drop one marble in his Mancala, then continue around to the other side of the board. He is not, however, to drop a marble in his opponent’s Mancala.

If the player places his last marble in his own Mancala, the player gets to play again. Example: If you start the game, a good play may be to choose the cup that is located 4th from the right. You would pick up 4 marbles, dropping one in each cup and ending in your Mancala. This gives you an extra turn.

If the player drops his last marble on his side of the board in an empty cup, he captures all the marbles in his opponent’s bin directly across from that bin. All captured marbles, plus the capturing marble, gets put in the player’s Mancala.

Players are not allowed to touch marbles in order to count them. If you touch your marbles, you are to play that cup.

Winning the game: The game ends when one player runs out of marbles on his side of the egg carton. When the game ends, the other player gets to take all his stones from his side of the egg carton and place in his own Mancala. Strategy sets in by determining whether it is wiser to go out, or play longer, depending on how many stones are in the opposing players cups.



One thought on “Mancala: The African game of counting and strategy – Black History Arts and Craft

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