Other Names: Wari
First Description: Zoraida
Eminda Jacobs, 1984
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Single laps
Region: United States Virgin

Wahree is a mancala game played on the United States Virgin Islands, particularly on Saint Croix. The game is a variant of Oware.

The game reached the islands slightly over 200 years ago, when an estimated 12 million slaves from Africa were shipped to the Americas in one of the worst crimes against humanity.

In the 20th century, the game slowly fell into obscurity like many other cultural treasures of the US Virgin Islands such as Cariso (music) and Bamboula (African-derived dance).

James Weeks, an award-winning photographer and writer from the Caribbean island of St. Croix, described the time of his youth (late 1970s, early 1980s):

"Signs of cultural erosion are everywhere. My mother told me she has a "vague" memory of the African game, Wahree. But my generation has no memory of this game because we were never exposed to it."

Wahree was, however, saved by a revival starting in the mid-1980s, when it was promoted by elementary school teachers as an "aid in teaching the skills of counting and the principals of logic". They also stressed its African origin and cultural values, such as communication between generations and the sharing of wisdom and proverbs. The first tournament was held at the Cooperative Extension Service (CVI) in Kingshill, Saint Croix, on November 30, 1984. Students from five schools participated. Top winners received mahogany boards with "nickels" made by Raphael Perez Davis of Golden Grove Correctional Facility. A second competition was held during the Agriculture Fair in mid-February 1985. More tournaments followed, one of them was won by Mr. Kofi Boateng from Ghana.

Today the game has again become popular among children, although there are no longer tournaments. Wahree is played in some local schools at special occasions like Virgin Islands History month (in March) and also during the annual Agriculture & Food Fair festival.

The rules were first described by Olassee Davis in 1995, however, parts of his account were hard to understand without actually knowing the game (especially his description of multiple captures is confusing). Ralf Gering tried to unravel this mystery in March of 2010. He contacted Zoraida Jacobs and Olassee Davies by e-mail. Mr. Davies recommended to ask his co-worker Kofi Boateng, an expert of the game. On March 18, Gering conducted a phone interview with Mr. Boateng who explained that, in fact, there is just one minor difference between Oware and Wahree, which is how "Grand Slam" captures are dealt with.


Wahree is played on a wooden board with initially four grey nickers in each hole. These counters were called "burning stones" because they heat up when rubbed together.

According to Mr. Boateng Wahree differs from Oware in the following manner:

  • It is allowed to "wipe out" the opponent by capturing ("plundering") everything he has, which ends the game. The remaining seeds are given to the player who moved last.

Otherwise the games are similar, e.g. the initial position, the sowing (the emptied hole is also skipped), the obligation to "feed" the opponent, when he has sown his last seeds to the opposing player, the way how multiple catures are performed, and the object of the game. In Wahree, the seeds that are left on the board at the game's end are also acquired by the player who owns their holes.


Davis, O.
Seeds Part of Oldest Game. In: The Daily News (American Virgin Islands) March 3, 1995.
Davis, O.
From Burning Beans to Ancient Game: At Reader's Urging, Wahree Is Explained. In: The Daily News (Virgin Islands) April 7, 1995.
Jacobs, Z. E.
Preserving "Wahree". In: Virgin Islands Education Review 1984: 1; (12): 3 & 25.
Jacobs, Z. E.
Oware (Wahree): African Game for Young and Old and here. In: Agriculture and Food Fair of the Virgin Islands, V. I. Department of Agriculture & The College of the Virgin Islands 1985: 79-80.

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