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Herstory of Dominoes in the Caribbean

No ball games here. 

Growing up in a Jamaican and Guyanese household, I was used to the familiar clatter of dominoes. Especially the sound of the winning domino tile being slammed down proudly against a wooden table in the house or in the yard, followed by the raucous laughter from the winner, smiling like a Cheshire cat as he reshuffled the tiles. The game was always played alongside a litre bottle of overproof Jamaican white rum and cutters (a spicy snack to accompany drinks), while the smooth sounds of soca and reggae played in the background.   

Image source @ Apollo Jim Grover  

The game of dominoes is intrinsic to Caribbean culture, Jamaicans in particular. In 2010 Jamaica even called for dominoes to be elevated to the status of an Olympic sport.  Growing up I saw dominoes predominantly a man’s game. However, my mother knew how to play, and she was quite the hustler. At their local Caribbean community club, the men and women would play at separate tables.  

Dominoes is in fact a great family game. In short, the main objective of the game is to clear your hand of dominoes by matching a tile to that previously played (see our how to play video). Whoever clears their hand first or has the least value of dominoes when the game is blocked is declared the winner.  Dominoes have been in my life for a long as I can remember but where did it all begin... 

Image source Wikimedia Commons 

Dominoes can be traced back to the Song Dynasty in China in the 13th Century. Dominoes are referenced in the text Former Events in Wulin by Zhou Mi (1232–1298). Source Wikipedia. It was not until the 18th century that dominoes were introduced to Europe through Chinese traders. Appearing first in Italy via Italian missionaries while in China.  European dominoes were traditionally made of bone, ivory, or ebony.  Either white with black pips or black with white pips. The Venetian derived the name Dominoes as the tiles looked similar to Venetian carnival black and white masks called Domini.   European dominoes sets consist of 28 tiles and it was the Europeans that brought dominoes to the Caribbean through colonisation (nuff said on that!). 

Even RiRi is in on the game | Image source @ Barbados Tourist Authority 

Nowadays the game of dominoes is enjoyed worldwide, with Spain, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago are all countries of dominoes enthusiasts. There are a variety of ways of playing the game, similar to cards or dice. With the growth of the internet, virtual dominoes games are very popular therefore cross-country battles are possible.  

During these times of the Covid pandemic, there's no better time to try and learn the game if you have not played before. I personally would love to see, more women enjoying the game, dominoes are so easy to transport so there always time for a game. When we can finally get out of lockdown Dominoes sets are the perfect accompaniment for ladies who lunch, afternoon high teas, or for girlie gossiping with evening cocktails.

Calabash Coast celebrates this historic gaming tradition and encourages women and families to get playing and share their experiences with the Calabash Coast community. Use the #6LoveCalabashCoast hashtag and share your images of dominoes fun. 

6Love Dominoes club set coming soon @ www.calabashcoast.com

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