Skip Navigation

Mancala Game Board

Arts of Africa

Mancala is one of the world's oldest games and is widely played in Africa. This board, like most, has twelve holes and two large cups to hold each player's game pieces. The figurative carvings, however, are rare, and the board's boat shape reflects the importance of canoes to the Bidjogo. Mancala reflects ideas about how society is organized: the board may represent either the village or the universe; the holes are called "houses" or "villages"; and the playing pieces, which are moved around the board, are called "men," "wives," "children," or "cattle."

CULTURE Possibly Bullom
  • Place Made: Guinea-Bissau
  • DATES 19th century
    DIMENSIONS 8 1/4 x 23 1/4 x 5 1/8 in. (21 x 59.1 x 13 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    CREDIT LINE Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund
    PROVENANCE Prior to 1922, provenance not yet documented; by 1922, acquired by William O. Oldman of London, United Kingdom; 1922, purchased from William O. Oldman by the Brooklyn Museum.
    Provenance FAQ
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION The object is a boat-shaped board with 12 playing cups and one triangular "capture" cup at either end. The playing area stands on a rectangular box which originally held playing seeds. The two ends are supported by a pair of male figures with ringed necks. The proper left leg of one of the figures is missing.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Possibly Bullom. Mancala Game Board, 19th century. Wood, 8 1/4 x 23 1/4 x 5 1/8 in. (21 x 59.1 x 13 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 22.239. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 22.239_SL1.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 22.239_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
    You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
    Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.