My name is Markus(but the usually call me Benjamin here in Malawi), I’m 20 years old, I’m a percussionist and I live in a small town called Nkhotakota. Life here is very different here compared to Lilongwe in my opinion. There you’ll find everything to be so stressed and rushed, while here in Nkhotakota life is a bit more relaxed.
I work at Nkhotakota Youth Organisation(NYO) where we offer different classes for youth, and we also have a Culture Center for the younger kids where we focus on music and traditional dances. While I have instrumental lessons with the students here at the center and also are planning for the Nkhotakota Music Festival (27th of April, don’t miss it if you are in Malawi at that time!!), I also have fallen for a very fun game that is quite common here in Malawi called Bawo. This post will be dedicated to Bawo, and I will try my best to explain how it works.
So, the concept of Bawo is that you have 4 rows of 8 small pits, two for you and two for your opponent. The point of the game is to steal you opponents marbles from your inner row, and protect your HOUSE(more on that later). So, the way the game works is that you always add a marble to one of the already put marbles on the board, no matter if you steal or if you don’t(more on that coming as well). Then you can choose whether to go right or left. Then you pick up the pile that you get on either side and walk inwards. You will then end up in a pit that hopefully have another marble. Then, if the pit on your opponents side have marbles you steal and start on your outer pit that you came from. Each player have 32 marbles each. Aand the point of the game is to steal all your opponents marbles from the inner row. When one of the players are out of marbles in the inner row, then you have won!
Within the pits you have a “house” where you place 8 marbles. The house is essential in the start and you always want to protect it! When you start you have 2+2 marbles next to your house. Then you add one and put the 5 marbles where ever you want to, and then the game begins. Whenever there is a marble on your opponents pit and you also have one in your pit you have(note:HAVE) to steal. If you can steal, then you shall steal. Every time you steal you take the amount and start either from left or right until it’s finished. When both of the players have finished all of the marbles the real fun begins. I mentioned that you walk around right? Oh, okay, so when you steal and start from one side and you end up in a pile of marbles buut there aren’t any marbles on your opponents side, then you continue to go around the board until you end up in a pit without any other marbles.
That’s the basics, but hold on: there is more!
No matter if it is in the start or mid-game, if you end up in one of the two pits on each side, you have to start from that particular side. Even if you come from the other side, you have(note again: HAVE) to change the direction and start from that side (see picture). This is a set rule.
Another rule is that you always have to steal if you can right? But, if you can’t steal with any of the piles or when you add one on your first move, that means that it is kutakata! This means that you have to walk around your own two rows without stealing until you stop on a pit with only one marble.
So this is the rules of Bawo explain in a (not) simple way! In a way, this game is like chess+mathematics. It’s all about counting around the board and see how you can steal as many pits from your opponent as possible. I enjoy it a lot, and when you get to know the game a bit, it can be very entertaining! (Check it out on youtube)
So cheers if you actually read all of this and let’s play some Bawo!
(Note: Bawo rules may vary, due to different game variants in different countries)