2025 Symposium May 8 - May 31

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ARTIST: Gopinath Subbanna 

HOME: India

LOCATION: Main Dunstable Road near the youth soccer field 


“’Ali Guli Mane’” or “‘Mancala’” is an ancient game still played in rural parts of southern India. This game has been passed on for many generations and is symbolic of historical traditions.  Historians believe it originated somewhere in central Africa around 5000 B.C.  Two players engage in the game which is played on a board with fourteen “’pits.’”  Players, in the countryside, can improvise and scoop pits out of the ground or rock.  More elaborate examples of boards are created using brass, copper or highly decorated wood.  The playing pieces can be stones, seeds or shells and in rare cases precious stones, gems and even pearls.  In Nashua acorns work perfectly.  The ancient Vijayanagara Empire reveals ample evidences about “‘Ali Guli Mane’” or “‘Mancala’”.  

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Gopinath Subbanna graduated with a M. V. A. in sculpture at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat, Bangalore in 2007, Post Diploma in Ceramic Sculptures in 2001 at M.S. University Baroda, and a B. F. A. in Sculpture at the College of Fine Arts in Bangalore in 1997.  Gopi has won numerous awards and scholarships, has participated in many international events and has even had 2 solo shows of his work.

 To this day, in remote Indian villages, children create their own playing area by scooping out holes in the ground and collecting stones or seeds as pawns. Ancient examples of this game can be seen carved out on stone slabs adjacent to various temples and fortifications among the many historical ruins all along the southern Indian belt. You will find the game woven into numerous folklore stories and it is forever entwined in Indian history.  Steeped in history and tradition the game has its own unique identity.

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Sadly, however, this game has lost out to the globalized individual, who unfortunately has various entertaining options both physical and digital in today’s age. In this context, it is a rarity to find activities where people gather and congregate to spend time together reminiscent of days long ago. I want to build upon THIS potential of the game, whereby, it attracts and congregates people.  By creating a large scale sculpture of this game, I hope it will stand as an ode to its historical nature, which has traveled across time, from within the African sub-continent to India, and from India to the USA.  It will also stand as a sculpture where people can participate and have fun with this game as it has been done for thousands of years.  In these times, where everything is fast and time doesn’t slow down, where everyone is digitally connected and the Internet has a dominating influence over our daily lives, “’Ali Guli Mane’” or “‘Mancala’” connects people without the burdensome baggage of today’s high tech culture.”

Sponsored by:

New England Kannada Koota, Employees of Eagle Investment Systems, Usha and Sudhakara Rao, Savitha and Kishore. In honor of parents of: Rep. Latha Mangipudi and Krishna Mangipudi, Gauthami and Veno Rao, Lakshmi and Shashidhar Harohalli, Sumathi Madhure and Vijaya Shantharam Yadati