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Conventional wrestling in Senegal – way more than a sport, it retains tradition alive

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Conventional wrestling performs an necessary function in a lot of Senegalese society and is among the nation’s nationwide sports activities.

Conventional wrestling is usually practised in rural areas the place it’s not only a sport, it has a profound social and cultural function. It’s being overshadowed by a extremely popular, trendy skilled wrestling. A synthesis of boxing and conventional wrestling, these matches are huge social occasions.

It’s notably necessary throughout the Joola group, in southern Senegal, and the Serer community in central Senegal. Collectively these communities make up about 18% of the nation’s inhabitants.

The follow is historically taught to younger males in particular colleges throughout their initiation into maturity.

All the knowledge on tips on how to wrestle has been handed down by oral historical past by griots – conventional West African troubadour-historians – and by the elders.

The younger males study society, hierarchy, and the basic variations between the standard roles of women and men. The coaching colleges additionally convey collectively folks from totally different communities. This implies, notably in rural areas, wrestling permits for pleasant encounters between neighbouring villages.

Wrestling isn’t only a sport, it’s a priceless social heritage that should proceed. It’s in decline as a result of younger wrestlers are interested in the skilled, trendy types.

Significance of oral historical past

As a result of wrestling has been handed down by oral historical past, there’s virtually a complete lack of written paperwork on it. As a specialist on wrestling, which I’ve researched at size, I need to spotlight that every one that we all know in regards to the historical past of conventional wrestling was instructed to us by the elders and griots.

In response to the elders and griots, wrestling was a way of settling conflicts between kings by wrestlers. Apart from this, it was practised as a leisure sport.

Wrestling within the Serer group has some added cultural dimensions – it is usually a literature, a ritual, and a pageant. Wrestling is accompanied by totally different rhythms which change in keeping with the wrestler himself and the collaborating group. It may be sluggish, silent, quick, jerky, fiery. It creates a narrative, encouragement, talking on to the wrestler, but in addition to all of the contributors.

Chants similar to “The chests scream when a fantastic wrestler goes down, let’s go, it’s already darkish”, or “I’m an everyday within the area, however I received’t go round searching for talismans, my power is sufficient” are sometimes sung by their supporters.

Wrestling is not only a sport, it has a substantial socio-educational side.

Wrestling coaching colleges exist for all younger boys, and thru it adults measured the boys’ braveness, their will to win and their spirit of self-sacrifice. Due to this, it brings honour to an individual’s village or area, and is a vital type of social capital to safeguard.

Socially entrenched

Conventional wrestling is greater than the only real person that wrestles. There are 5 key social dynamics round wrestlers: the connection between the wrestler and his entourage; the connection between wrestling and household relationships; the connection between wrestling and friendship; between the elders and wrestling; and at last the contribution of wrestling to bringing folks collectively.

Conventional wrestling additionally issues to the group – it’s an expression of ethnicity, tribe or class. Wrestling in conventional society was an indication of the vitality of a selected group. This group rallies all its forces round a single character – the wrestlers – as its consultant.

The connection between the wrestler and his group is due to this fact key. There are three relationships particularly that stand out:

  • The wrestler-champion and his group or group: the wrestler attracts his power from this group which helps and encourages him in his preparation and throughout the struggle. It’s believed {that a} champion who cuts himself off from his group loses a part of his power.

  • The age group: this represents younger folks of the identical age. It’s inside this age group that the wrestler can measure his power over others.

  • The function of the mom, the sister and the “students” (the group’s smart males) who felt mobilised particularly to guard their “son” and guarantee his victory. Wrestlers will usually put on their symbols, for example carrying a sister’s loincloth implies that the wrestler is combating for the honour of the household.

Shift to skilled wrestling

Conventional wrestling is a part of Senegal’s cultural heritage, encompassing social integration and schooling, however its true type is dying out. At present, most individuals are likely to give attention to professional wrestling.

Other than the Flag of the Head of State – a nationwide wrestling event devoted to the pinnacle of state and bringing collectively wrestlers from all areas of the nation – which is organised by the National Management Committee (the physique answerable for the administration of wrestling), conventional wrestling is absent from the nation’s cultural coverage tasks and programmes.

The sports activities and tradition ministries should put money into preserving and highlighting Senegalese conventional society, together with conventional wrestling.

A model of this text was initially printed in French. You possibly can learn it here