Local cultural magazine The Culturati on Saturday hosted the first ever Mhele Challenge, with 32 participants competing for the crown to determine the last kgori standing.
Mhele, a traditional game, attracted a mix of both the young and old. But it was the elderly players who dominated the games, beating the youngsters.
Mhele also known as Morabaraba or mmele is a traditional two-player strategy board game usually played with stones or charcoal as counters.
The winner makes calculated moves with the end means of eliminating the counters also known as dikgomo (cows) from the board. Just like chess, the game can be won by voluntary resignation of the opponent, which typically occurs when too much of the opponent’s cows are captured, or winning appears unavoidable.
While mhele is a two-player strategy board game like chess, the traditional game is much engaging because the players do not remain silent but sometimes shout in joy as they make strategic moves. It was good to know that the culture of talking to board hasn’t died as the players eliminated each other to narrow it down to the last round.
The audience was also in their best behaviour as they watched in silence to avoid interference since it was a competition.
Traditionally, some members of the audience have a tendency of aiding their preferred players to make moves that can either help to win or avoid loss. Mhele players conventionally take their time, but in the challenge the participants were given time therefore there was no time for deep thinking.
With the challenge, The Culturati found it fit to reinvigorate Botswana’s traditional game through engaging reputable individuals as participants. The event was a combined partnership from different stakeholders like Botswana Traditional Games Association and Bir
dlife Botswana, a non-governmental organisation established in 1980 to fill the void in knowledge and interest surrounding birds.
Through the mhele renaissance, The Culturati has infused the celebration of mhele and Kori Bustard (National bird) as the two are both African and have a cultural significance; hence the theme The Last Kgori Standing.
The event also included music and dance from Mafitlhakgosi Traditional Group from Old Naledi and they didn’t disappoint as usual. Jazz Musician Julia Ross was also amongst the performers on the day.