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African Board Games

Updated on July 14, 2010
Bao & Morabaraba Coffee Table from Malawi.
Bao & Morabaraba Coffee Table from Malawi.

Furniture that won't Gather Dust.

Malawi, in East Africa, has a reputation for its carved wood furnishings and artwork. Mostly that renown is for its creation of mystical religious artifacts. At least that's how how it looks to the outsider. But Malawi has so much more to show - and teach - when it come to marrying beauty with utility.

A nice example is their creative incorporation of traditional social board games with everyday Homeware and decor.

The beautiful, hand carved safari scenes on ebony coffee tables are not just a place to spill coffee. The wooden tables pop out from the legs and can be flipped and out come the natural wooden checkers and native seeds for a game of Bao (a Mancala game), Chess or Nine Men's Morris (Morabaraba). Can you think of a more enjoyable way to have a your short black?

Malawi, have some of the finest furniture craftsman anywhere. Their wooden décor, mostly sold to people wealthier than themselves, is strong, solid, smooth and detailed. Their home décor and furnishings are also very practical and combine beautiful art and craftsmanship with daily life in a really clever way.

Social board games are central to Malawi culture and street life. Even their two player games like oware or Dammi Draughts are an occasion for a get together in the street. People gather around these games to chat, eat and cheer one another one against an opponent. It is a past time enjoyed by both men and women and this is reflected in their use of table game furniture and décor.

A Malawi Coffee table that doubles as game furniture is not only beautiful décor for any home, it is enjoyable and practical décor. It's furniture and it's ornament that gets used. And the more you use it, the less it gathers dust. Instead, it gathers precious memories. Family memories of hot chocolate and cake in winter gathered around art, culture, furniture and fun – all in one.

The quality of the wood work and the materials used means that the furniture will last and only ever need an occasional polish. Being well made they can also withstand a bit of child-like rough housing.

Malawi's traditional board game and table furniture is beautiful and original décor that actually gets used and enjoyed, as well as admired for its beauty. This is the kind of household décor that becomes more than just pretty. And, though its not always easy to find, it is worth hunting down.

It doesn't go out of fashion and the board games have never gone out of style. All in all the bringing together of beauty, clever craftsmanship and traditional African games is ingenuous and I wish I had thought of it first!


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