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Faces of Africa > Program Video

Faces of Africa 11/13/2016 Female wrestlers of Senegal part 2

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11-13-2016 18:31 BJT

What football is to Europe, so is traditional wrestling is to the West African country, Senegal. “It is a sport we know and love doing, both and men play wrestling,” told Bala Gaye – wrestling champion. Female wrestlers from Mlomp in Casamance, Senegal, reign in championship tournaments same as the male wrestlers. This traditional sport has been passed on from generation to generation.

Traditional wrestling is among the best-supported sports in Senegal, rivalling football in popularity. For centuries female wrestlers in Senegal have competed in seasonal wrestling matches as a way to help create good fortune for the annual rice crop. Female wrestling forms part of the celebrations for the rice fields’ festival.

 Isabel Sambou from Casamance Senegal close in view practising for the regional wrestling match.

Isabel Sambou from Casamance Senegal close in view practising for the regional wrestling match.

“In Mlomp, we have two seasons, play season and work season,” told Evelyn – Wrestling champion.

The strength of the Casamance people has proved an advantage in the sport arenas but for decades between 1850 towards the end of 1900th century, that aspect brought pain and torment for the people of that region. During colonial times, slavery was one of the most dehumanizing acts that took place. Approximately 12- 15 million Africans were sold as slaves and shipped to the West.

Young aspiring traditional wrestlers taking each other down in a local match held by Evelyn Diatta (in pink top) a wrestling champion in Senegal.

Young aspiring traditional wrestlers taking each other down in a local match held by Evelyn Diatta (in pink top) a wrestling champion in Senegal.

Casamance region in Senegal became the hub for the slavery trade and slaves from all over Africa were shipped through Senegal.
Selection of the strongest men in Africa was done here. Evelyn Diatta and her brother Nazarie often visit Carabene Island in Casamance that became the housing area for the chained slaves.

“Africans were held and exported to other countries. It is a place with many historic sites here in Casamance. The colonialists diminished the power of Africa by taking away the strong people. Coming here and thinking about what happened to my ancestors gives me strength to work better,” told Evelyn.  

Isabel Sambou tying down an opponent at a regional match. She won and retained the title.

Isabel Sambou tying down an opponent at a regional match. She won and retained the title.

Evelyn is a trained national coach for the female wrestlers in the country. She desires to pass on to the younger generations what her forefathers preserved for her.

“When a woman loves wrestling, I pray for her because she wants to display her bravery,” Sibilou Diediou – king of the Mlomp region.

Evelyn and her brother Nazarie at the famous Carabene Island that hosted slaves during the colonial times. Slaves from all over Africa were held in here before being shipped to the West.

Evelyn and her brother Nazarie at the famous Carabene Island that hosted slaves during the colonial times. Slaves from all over Africa were held in here before being shipped to the West.

Isabel Sambou, a female wrestling champion started competing in traditional wrestling, which emphasizes on takedowns. Her talent was discovered and since then, she has brought pride to her beloved country by constantly winning medals. In the recent match she won the regional trophy maintaining the title that she held.

“Today I am very happy because the mission that Senegal sent me to do, I did it perfectly,” told Isabel.

 African slaves during colonial times, they were chained before being shipped. Casamance has many strong men hence their triumph in wrestling but the number of strong men was diminished during colonial times between 1850 -1900.

African slaves during colonial times, they were chained before being shipped. Casamance has many strong men hence their triumph in wrestling but the number of strong men was diminished during colonial times between 1850 -1900.

“Women who are ashamed of wrestling are ignorant of culture. I was born and I found it, I have lived with it, and I will leave it still going on. Culture is something that you cannot ignore whether you like it or not,” told Evelyn.

“We should love ourselves and avoid being ashamed of our continent,” told Gala Baye – wrestling champion.

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