I am amazed at the way the AWARE/OWARE game is being innovatively used to empower women.
-Dr. Rudo Sithole, Executive Director, AFRICOM, International Council of African Museums
The AWARE/OWARE: A Game for Female Empowerment serves as a strong sculptural and aesthetic public artwork as well as an innovative and interactive forum for the community to explore the issue of female empowerment. AWARE/OWARE has been adapted from the ancient African board game, oware. possibly the oldest board game in the world, dating back 7,000 years. While it varies from country to country, even from tribe to tribe, it is played in many African countries and around the world and is alleged to have originated from West Africa. Often people play with pebbles using hollow scooped into the earth or specially carved wooden boards with seeds.
The traditionally played game focuses on two central principles “to reap you must sow” and “to receive, you must learn to give.” As such, this game is not only played for enjoyment but has been passed down from generation to generation as a useful educational and empowerment tool. Furthermore, researchers are discovering that we can learn valuable lessons through games for social change or ‘games for good’. Qualities come forth that often exemplify our best selves as we become motivated, optimistic, focused, collaborative, and heroic in the face of ‘empowerment and success’ as well as ‘failure’ thereby cultivating strength and resilience, qualities which can affect how we live in the real world. The game itself is designed to explore the challenges and the successes in moving towards aspects of female empowerment to include: education, economic, health, stewardship, human rights and politics.
The game was first conceived and designed when Art Works for Change invited six South African art collectives to tell their stories, create the bowls with their imagery, and play the game in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, November 2011 as part of the Freedom to Create Prize celebration. The participating collectives include: Woza Moya-Hillcrest Aids Trust; Ardmore Ceramics; Keiskamma Arts Trust; Hlabisa Basket Weavers; Greatmore Studios; and Artist Proof Studio. The game has since traveled to COP 17, Durban; and the Vukani Zulu Cultural Museum, South Africa.
Woza Moya-Hillcrest Aids Trust
Keiskamma Arts Trust
Hlabisa Basket Weavers
Artist Proof Studio