Ayo Olopon is a traditional game played by the Yoruba people of Nigeria. It is a game that requires a lot of brain power and mathematical skill. Ayo is played in a carved wooden box, containing twelve holes (six holes on each side), and forty-eight Ayo seeds (four seeds in each hole).
It is similar to the Oware game that is known across the Americas which was originally introduced by slaves from Africa.
It also has a lot of similarity to mancalas, which is derived from the Warri people of Nigeria. Also called Kalah or Ayo-ayo variances of the board game have the same rules.
The game is of Yoruba origin as other variances have historical attachment to the Yoruba who are ancestral cousins to the Warri whose forefathers (with the Yoruba) were traded during the Atlantic Slave Trade.
It also has identical rules with Endodoi, played by the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania who are also of African origin.
The art of playing Ayo is called Ayo Tita. According to the Yoruba Culture, Ayo Tita is observed in the evening after the day's work. It is often believed that only lazy men played the game in the morning.
Children learn to play Ayo in most government schools as it is a cultural heritage that must be passed on from generation to generation.
Often, schools organize Ayo Competitions for kids and the winner often gets a good cash prize and a new Ayo board.
Ayo Olopon is just as it is. Ayo means seeds and opon means holder. A fusion of both words mean Seeds in the Holder hence, Ayo Olopon.
How is the game played?
Ayo game, is a game played in a carved wooden box, containing twelve holes (six holes on each side), and forty-eight Ayo seeds (four seeds in each hole). Two individuals take turn to play this game, which runs anti clockwise.
The first player begins by moving seeds from his right hand side to the opponent’s side. If the seed-movement terminates in a hole with three or less Ayo seeds, this player picks up the seeds, and seeds from preceding holes, if any.
Players take turn until the seeds are exhausted. The player with upper hand is called Ọta, and the weak or the losing player is called Ope. Spectators’ comments on the direction of the game add colour to the game.
If a player records three straight wins, he becomes a champion (Ọta meaning bullet), the loser (Ope meaning 'knowledgeable') quits; a new player takes over.
Ayo game requires deep thought, and good strategy to move seeds with the ultimate aim to win. Ayo, a relaxation game is played by everyone (originally only men); the meeting point is usually under a big tree with shade or restaurant.
Today, Ayo has been adopted by the World and is fondly called AWELE which is a misspelling by the Western World.
Have you seen or played Ayo Olopon? Does it have a variance where you live or come from?
Feel free to share in the comment section.
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Sources: wikipedia, Osun Defender, Gloworld