Last year, I nearly saw some wrestling. Since then I have been itching to see a lutte match, the traditional wrestling popular in this region of West Africa. Wrestling was big in England in the seventies and I remember watching it on Saturday afternoons with my Grandma. I even spent a short period of time working for one of its biggest stars, Big Daddy, but despite this I wasn’t much of a fan – it was always more theatrical than sporting, in my opinion.
The fighting seems real enough here. Wherever I go, I see lads practising in the sand. Alongside football, it’s the most popular sport in the country and the biggest lutte stars are, like footballers in the UK, multi-millionaire idols. After a recent match on television, a roar went through the entire village and then youths zipped up and down the main sand drag on motorcycles, beeping horns and generally being boisterous.
I heard that there was a big lutte match last friday in Diouloulou, a village about 10 miles away and the site of the last lion spotted in this region. Accordingly, there was a Simba dancer (lion man), who minced around like a camp feline Michael Jackson throughout the entire afternoon. In fact the whole event was fairly homo-erotic.
Drummers thrashed away on the edge of a sand circle. Wrestlers between matches, would take a break from flexing their muscles and pouring water upon each other, to dance with Simba. Amidst this, opponents from the two teams fought each other at a fast pace, with the occasional break for officials to make dull speeches. The crowd lapped it up, cheering and occasionally breaking into the circle to dance to the drums alongside the fighters.
The final fight was thrilling, the fighters bodies heavily muscled, soaked with sweat and wrapped in leather cords holding protective gris-gris. The crowds roared with delight as the winner hurled the other to the ground.
I looked to the skies, to see hundreds of bats pouring out of a single tree and flying off into the jungle before driving home into yet another spectacular sunset.