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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

African themed playing cards

Pharaoh Palmier Poker, the Sasatki Black Pack.

"Africa, and its tantalizing thrusts of mystery, majesty and malevolence, remains an enigma"

Above: nine cards and back design from "Pharaoh Palmier Poker Cards".  52 cards + 2 Jokers plus pyramid card in tuck box.

Other African themed decks reviewed on this website include: "The Frozen Court"

Above: 52 + 2 jokers + extra joker in Special Box: BLACK PACK, featuring thick-set black characters in traditional African dress. First edition, limited to 5000 copies. Manufactured by Heraclio Fournier S.A., Spain for Sasakti, London, 1993. 33% proceeds to aid African children "for personal freedom & social justice". Illustrated by production designer Christopher Hobbs. An error can be seen on the queen of diamonds, the inner pip symbol is missing.

In the traditional African worldview, life and death are inextricably linked. All members of a family, both living and dead, continue to depend on one another. Ancestral cults confirm common provenance and thus the unity of the clan.

Pair of amulets in ivory, Republic of Congo, 19th century

Above: pair of amulets in ivory, Republic of Congo, 19th century. The dot-circle motif on the body symbolises life and continuity.

Round the World card game published by Pepys, 1961

Above: African themed card from Round the World card game published in 1961.

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996.

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Ethiopian

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East African Playing Cards

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