23.08.2018 - UNESCO Office in Nairobi

UNESCO digitalizes traditional African games to preserve and expose traditional culture

About the Bao Game- Digitalized

The UNESCO Game Jam Event for Local Traditional Games in Kenya will take place at the Kenya Heritage Training Institute in Mombasa County, Kenya, from 28 to 30 August 2018

UNESCO is working with the National Museums of Kenya in releasing an animation on the traditional Kenyan game called Bao. The game is a recreational board game played in Kenya and is also referred to as Ajua by the Luo, Chigogo by the Mijikenda, Ndîa rûmwe by Kikuyu, and Uthi by the Embu and Meru communities. This local traditional game has different versions which vary from place to place in terms of its name, number of rows, number of holes on each row as well as whether the holes are dug on the ground or on the board.

The digitalization of the game forms part of nine other traditional games that have been identified by a group of experts as traditional games in Kenya. The other traditional games include Bow and Arrow, Bull Fighting, Dodge Ball, Hide and Seek, Toss and Catch (Kora), MANCALA II – Rows Board game, Rope Skipping, Spinning Cone, Stick Fight and Wrestling. Two android mobile applications have been developed for Skipping Rope and Bow and Arrow, following an interactive mobile development process in cooperation with Kenya Telecentres Network and Lakehub in Kisumu, Kenya. An e-publication on the nine games is also being developed for educational purposes. The remaining 4 games will be digitalized during a UNESCO Game Jam that scheduled to take place from 28 to 30 August 2018 at the Kenya Heritage Training Institute in Mombasa County, Kenya. This event aims at raising awareness and building capacities of young people to digitalize local traditional games through enhancing the use of ICTs to protect and safeguard traditional knowledge in Kenya.

The digitization process of the local traditional games by UNESCO has encouraged and fostered creative thinking, innovation and teamwork especially among young people in Kenya. It has also helped raise public awareness and impact the preservation of traditional knowledge to connect and improve the world in an innovative way.

Since November 2017, UNESCO in collaboration with the National Museums of Kenya has been implementing a global project entitled: “Creation of an Open Digital Library on Traditional Games” in Kenya. It aimed at encouraging innovative ways to preserve and disseminate traditional games, to safeguard such knowledge as living heritage, narrow the digital divide, and promote indigenous and local knowledge for learning and development.

Traditional games are a means to convey values of solidarity, diversity, fair play, inclusion, and cultural awareness. They create bridges across generations, between the elderly and the young people who are key actors and partners to contribute to cultural awareness and inter-generational learning.

UNESCO has been working with TENCENT in a joint project titled to develop an “Open Digital Library on Traditional Games” to encourage innovative use ICTs to collect, digitally preserve, and disseminate information about traditional games around the world. More specifically, to encourage a nascent gaming industry in Kenya, where young people can share their collective power of gaming to make a global impact on the rapprochement of cultures.

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