A vision of a board game!

A vision of a board game!

Hi, I am Joanna Lemnelius. Founder and owner of Mixed Grill, a very successful 😇 Gambian-based children’s clothing line. And now, I am in the process of creating a board game. Because I love games? Yeah, well, because there is a lesson that needs to be learned – one that is being taught our children in a rather uncontemporary and mindless fashion, through the current board game The Lost Diamond/Den Försvunnen Diamanten. Let me explain… During the COVID-19 pandemic, we played a lot of board games as a family. My three children, especially the younger two (ages 7 and 10), began reflecting over what exactly we were doing when playing The Lost Diamond. They asked me why you would want to go to Africa to take the diamond. Why would we want to remove it from Africa? Are we actually the thieves that are playing the game, and the point is to find the diamond, steal it, and get out of Africa ASAP? Or were the thieves just there – Africans – waiting to steal the money we had with us when we came to get the diamond? My mind began racing with thoughts. Me, the incredibly politically-awake-activist. The anti-racism fighter, who moved my mixed-race family from Sweden to Gambia. I began speaking about this with people. Eyes opened wider, and chins hit the floor. I started reading about all the African treasures that had been stolen over the colonial years. All the artifacts – both financially lucrative and spiritually significant – holed up in museums and collections and galleries – across the Western World. Bullshit. Something had to be done. A new game created! And then real life swallowed me up again. Small business owner, mother, woman, freedom fighter, tired person. Then, the Queen Elizabeth II of England died. The game revisited me with a vengeance in her passing. The crown, with its diamond. On our way to school one morning, my daughter Rio spoke up. “Mamma, will they give back the diamond now that the queen is dead?” My heart skipped a beat, and then another.  

We began digging deep into the history of the real diamond – the one the game is based around. We learnet that The Great Star of Africa or Cullinan I (diamond) was mined in South Africa in 1905 and handed over to the British royal family by South Africa’s colonial authorities. The Diamond was the biggest Diamond ever found it was cut into 9 pieces and the biggest piece is mounted on the Sovereign’s Scepter, part of the British Royal Family’s royal crown jewels. Priceless stuff. Stolen goods, pure and simple. To race our way, beating everyone else to the diamond, grabbing an easy-to-come-by exit in the form of a visa, and head back north. Me at the helm of it all. Me, who purchased this game and then spread it out before them, with a bowl of snacks and a promise of family hang time. Me, who is constantly and insistently thinking about racism, and how I can offset its negative overtones in my existence and in the lives of absolutely everyone I encounter. Me, who makes active decisions to protect my children. And there we were sitting, in our home in Gambia, with mixed blood in our bodies and great intentions in our hearts, playing The Lost Diamond. Fuck me.  

So many questions had been unleashed, along with a enormous rage. I felt so ashamed. Angry at myself for all the times I had played the game without once reflecting over what the hell we were DOING after all. Not until my children – my unprocessed and innocent children – looked at me with the most honest, heartbreaking question of all. “Mamma, what are we really doing here?”   The idea to create an updated version had been born. My initial thought was that the game would consist of collecting all the stolen treasure – currently located in Europe – and return it to its rightful owners in Africa. Simply put, the winner would return the diamond to its place of origin. The work with this game have been a long journey and I have taken so many different turns they the process I still don’t know where I am going exactly. All I know is that we collectively can work for a change they greater j owl edge and understanding about our shared history. Pleae feel free to contact me with any ideas of how to move forward! 



The first sketch of our map.

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