African Banyan Wari game heads to UK toy market

Wooden game has a rich history in Western Africa and Banyan believes UK retailers should get on board.
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Banyan, a company specialising in African and Caribbean heritage products and services, is bringing wooden game Banyan Wari to the UK market.

Wari is a number, thinking, and strategy game for two players aged seven and above and the game has a rich history in parts of Western Africa, Antigua and Barbados where there are national championships.

Eric Pemberton, Banyan director, told ToyNews that UK retailers should start stocking Banyan Wari as communities are already playing the game across the UK.

“Wari is enjoyed by African and African Diaspora communities in Britain and by a growing number of academies, schools and colleges,” said Pemberton.

“Schools interested in promoting young peoples’ number and thinking skills have shown strong interest in Banyan Wari. We note with interest the evidence from Sweden that the trend is towards a return to traditional toys. It is not ‘either or’, rather ‘both and’."

While independent retailers and stores with an educational focus will likely be a solid fit for Banyan Wari, the wooden game has also been positively received by demographics and societies outside of the traditional toy sector.

“One of Banyan’s income streams is through ‘wood appreciation events’ such as the Annual National Forest Wood Fair held at Beacon Hill Country Park near Loughborough. Banyan has attended this event for four years,” added Pemberton.

“There are significant developments in care home provision where the elders are encouraged to keep active.

“Banyan Wari is in the early stages of discussions with some Elders homes and one 93 year old Antiguan lady who lives in Leicester plays Wari and she regularly beats me. Her mind is razor sharp.”

Research undertaken by Banyan has found that in the UK, the game appeals most to families interested in African-Caribbean cultures and young people interested in learning products.

“Banyan sells to all types of customers,” continued Pemberton.

“However, for the USA the following factors seem to be important: there are 40 million African Americans and research evidence suggests that African American cultural industries provision is more advanced than in Britain and Europe. To illustrate the point New York has an African American population of 6.2 million and eight dedicated African American museums.

“In the UK and Europe, from our experience, customers seem to belong to families with Key Stage 2 and above children and young people with a strong interest in learning, families interested in African-Caribbean cultures and elders interested in thinking games. We have also noticed strong interest from white families interested in thinking games.”

The company already offers Banyan Wari Master Classes and demonstrations, and Pemberton believes retailers could draw consumers into stores by holding similar events.

Pemberton added: “A table and two chairs are required. Promotional events linked to products help to raise the profile of the products in store. In addition we have found that some people enjoy being shown how to play and this contributes to sales.”

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