Senegalese wrestling is a national sport in Senegal. I have never watched a wrestling match carefully enough to notice the rules or the goals until this day so it was little hard for me to compare and contrast the styles and rules of the international wrestling style and Senegalese traditional folk wrestling style. What I noticed, though, was that there were a lot going on. There was incredibly powerful and fun drumming before the match. The players came out and performed group/single dance. Then there were singers, interestingly mostly women, who sang Senegalese songs.
the wrestlers dancing before the game; by Elizabeth Vincelette
When I saw the game on TV, the wrestlers poured some milky liquid over their body for good luck but I didn’t get to see the ritual in the field. All of those rituals made me wonder about their beliefs. It felt like Senegalese traditional beliefs and Islamic influence were mixed together to create a new culture in Senegal. For example, I am a Christian who believe in one and only God. So I don’t believe in animism or any other indigenous beliefs that used to shape the spiritual lives of my ancestors. But in Senegal, indigenous faiths weren’t just the traces or remains of the past beliefs even though about 95% of them were Muslims who believe in monotheism. All the rituals weren’t performed just for the sake of it or to keep the tradition. People actually performed the rituals and believed in them. It was interesting to how their traditional beliefs were still strongly practiced and imbedded in their lives.
Anyway, it wasn’t just before the game. Even during the game, there were various groups who performed to cheer the players which were more eye-catching than the game itself to me. It was interesting to see the crowd getting all excited for their teams. We were told that the wrestler who wins the championship becomes the national super-star. I loved the enthusiasm and the energy.