Nsolo the Honeyguide bird

In The Butterfly Heart, Bul-Boo, one of the narrators in the book, describes an argument between her and her sister over the Nsolo, the honeyguide bird. The wondrous thing about this bird is the relationship it has both with humans and the Honey Badger, leading them to hives that they break up enabling the bird to feed on the remains. The following video, shot in Kenya, shows this relationship perfectly.

Nsolo has another meaning – it is the name given to a particular mancala game played in Zambia and Malawi. The game is also known as Nchombwa. Mancala games are played throughout Africa and in parts of Asia and the word originates from the Arabic word ‘naqala’ which means to move. The game came be played on a wooden board or, more often, in holes dug into the ground. There are many types of mancala games but they all involve counting seeds and capturing others.

There is a site devoted to these games called WikimanQala which lists and describes hundreds of variations played around the world.

A carved mancala board from West Africa

A mancala game played in the sand.

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2 responses to “Nsolo the Honeyguide bird

  1. Beautiful blog, Paula – so interesting and I love the design and photos. Fascinating about the mancala games. I didn’t realise they were so widespread. We have a Ugandan version, Umwezo, which my husband played when he lived there in the early 90s. It’s fast and furious and the seeds are so satisfying just to hold. Woe betide anyone in the family who loses them. Debbie Thomas

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