Owari workshop. Museum of African Art, 316-318 A St. NE. July 19,26 and August 2,2 to 4 p.m. $1. Space must be reserved by the day before the workshop. 547-7424.
Whether it's madja in Benin, mongola in the Congo or gisithi in Kenya, it all translates into a popular centuries-old African game that calls for many of the same skills as backgammon or chess - and provides the same thrill and challenge. The Museum of African Art will be passing on this traditional form of amusement in an afternoon workshop for children dealing with the history, strategy and construction of the Ghanaian version of this game, known as owari. Children (from 7 to 13) will make and decorate their own gameboards from cardboard egg cartons and, using dried beans as playing pieces, will learn how elaborate or simple the playing techniques can be while, at the same time, they discover the importance of thinking and planning ahead. If you miss the workshop but are curious about the game, the museum displays an authentic wooden gameboard handcarved by Ghana's Ashanti people (on view through Labor Day), and also stocks the sleek, wooden Egyptian versions of the game - called mankala - in its boutique ($18).