Edged Metal Tools and Wari/Mancala Board (Liberia?), mid-19th cent.

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This record was last updated on 09 Sep 2015

Image Reference

Drawings of Western Africa (University of Virginia Library, Special Collections, MSS 14357, no19).

Ink wash. Shown, from top to bottom: “cutlass used for cutting bushes, digging up the weeds & grass, digging post holes, planting, fishing, fighting”; “spear used in killing the elephant”; (left) “knife for domestic use, for offence & defense,” (right) “harpoon for fishing.” The bottom drawing shows a board for playing the widespread African, including indigenous Liberian, game of wari (sometimes called mancala although there are many names for it in local languages), identified by the artist as a “block of wood with cups or hollows cut in it for containing nuts used in a game akin to chess.” Generally, the counters used in the game are moved around the two parallel lines of cups/holes, while the holes at each end are used for the captured counters or pieces, usually small round objects like pebbles or seeds (see, for example, George Schwab, Tribes of the Liberian Hinterland [Peabody Museum, Harvard University, 1947], p. 158). This is one of 22 works displayed on this website of West African coastal scenes -- out of a total of 32 -- held by University of Virginia Library. None of the works is dated or signed, and they seem to have been done by at least two different persons (perhaps associated with missionary activities in West Africa and/or the American Colonization Society). See also other image references “UVA” on this website.