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-a picture of a girl playing “Diketo”-

2001 saw the revival of indigenous games played in various communities in South Africa. The tournament was developed in response to the government’s call for an African Renaissance [1]. The Ministry of Sports and Recreation established a tournament to host the games, “South African Indigenous Games”

The indigenous games tournament is held annually in September and 23 indigenous games from different regions of the country have been incorporated. The games are expected to have 800 participants in 2012. [2]

The games are grouped into three categories [2]:

1. Games that require physical skills, like kho-kho, do eke and kgati.

2. Games that require both physical skills and strategy, like stick fighting and jukskei.

-Stick Fighting Tournament –

3. Strategy games like morabaraba and ncuva/moruba and diketo


side note: I think all games can be “digitized”, in the form of computer games. I am aware of only one computer version of Morabaraba. http://www.morabaraba.org/computer

How the strategy games are played (from the rulebook) [3]

Moruba (tsoro, ntjiwa, ncuva, instuva) – A board game

Aim of the game:

To play the game until one player has lost all their “cows” (or pebbles).

Play space set up

The size of the play space and the number of holes often depends on the number of players. Most common are boards that have four rows of 12 holes (mekoti) each, although the number of holes can vary from 4 to 36 per row. Place two small pebbles or morula pips (“cows”) into each hole.

Play instructions

Each player (or team) only uses their side of the play area or “play board”. On a turn a player takes the contents of one of their holes, which must contain at least two stones, and distributes them, one by one, counter-clockwise into consecutive holes on their own side. If the last stone falls into a non-empty hole, its contents are distributed in another lap in the same direction. The move ends (kulala, literally “to sleep”) when the last stone is dropped into an empty hole.

If the last stone falls into an empty hole of the inner row, and the opponent’s opposite hole contains stones, these enemy stones are “killed” (hlaba) or “hit”. Additionally, the stones in the hole of the same file in the outer row are “captured” (tlola). The killed or captured stones are removed from the board.

The player is then entitled to capture the contents of any other two enemy holes.

When a player has only singletons, they are permitted to move them, but only in empty holes. The player who still has stones at the end of the game is declared the winner. It is a draw when the board position repeats without anything being captured.

Morabaraba (umlabalaba) – a board game

morabaraba tournament

morabaraba board variation design

morabaraba design

Aim of the game

For one player to remove (eliminate) their opponent’s tokens.

Equipment needed

The game is played by two players. Each player needs 12 tokens (“izinkomo” cows). These could be stones, marbles of the same or similar colour.

Play instructions

Play can happen in a period of minutes or hours. Tokens are placed, one at a time, alternately, on a point of intersection with the aim of making the tokens form a line, three in a row. The opposing player can place their tokens anywhere to block the other player from getting three in row. When a player gets three tokens in a row they have won that row and must remove one of the other player’s tokens from the board. When all tokens are used, the game continues. Players can move their tokens to new intersections and keep trying to get each other’s tokens. The game ends when one player has removed all of their opponent’s tokens.

Download Morabaraba here – http://www.morabaraba.org/computer

A comprehensive list of the indigenous games played and rules is at the Department of Sports and Recreation website  – http://www.srsa.gov.za/MediaLib/Home/DocumentLibrary/Indigenous%20Games%20Rule%20Book%20-%20Aug%202007.pdf


1. “Indigenous games a great success” – SaGoodNews –  http://www.sagoodnews.co.za/sport/indigenous_games_a_great_success.html

2. “A trip through indigenous games” – Sowetan News Paper – http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/sport/2012/03/14/a-trip-through-sa-s-indigenous-games

3. “Indigenous Games Rule Book” – Department of Sports and Recreation [pdf] – http://www.srsa.gov.za/MediaLib/Home/DocumentLibrary/Indigenous%20Games%20Rule%20Book%20-%20Aug%202007.pdf