Traditional wrestling directly affects the cultural heritage of Senegalese society. It is a factor of education and social integration which forges and forms the individual.
In the African tradition, wrestling plays an important role in the socialization process of individuals. It is indeed seen and perceived as a place of training and education of individuals. In Senegal, in the rural world in general and in society Joola – a community in the southern region of the country – in particular, the struggle constitutes a heritage of social integration.
Wrestling has always occupied a prominent place in human societies. All the information known today on traditional African wrestling has been obtained through oral transmission, by the griots, responsible for transmitting the history of the tribes, and by the elders. In the rural world, wrestling makes it possible to see friendly encounters between neighboring villages. Because it is a training school for people from different communities.
In the Joola society, for example, the struggle remains, alongside theInitiation, a determining factor in the integration of young adolescents into social life. There he discovers the stratification of society, the limits of the hierarchy, the fundamental differences between the circles of men and women. The struggle is a reflection of the organization of society.
The social functions of wrestling can be specified along five axes: the relationship between the wrestler and his entourage, the relationship between wrestling and kinship, the relationship between wrestling and friendship, elders and wrestling, and finally the contribution of the struggle to the rapprochement of peoples.
In Senegal, traditional wrestling constitutes a cultural heritage whose vocation is the socialization of individuals. In other words, it imposes itself almost everywhere as a means of promoting honor through the cult of bravery and gives its village or country champions significant social capital to safeguard.
If the oral sources allowed us to know some significant facts of our history, they often suffer from a real lack of precision or reference. Therefore, in trying to deepen our knowledge of African history, we come up against an almost total lack of written documents in many areas, such as traditional wrestling, which is the subject of our study. Everything we know about traditional African wrestling in general is told to us by the elders who constituted our sole field of investigation.
In all African societies wrestling, in addition to serving as a means of settling conflicts between kings by interposed wrestlers, was practiced in the form of a recreational game, said the ancients.
Wrestling was a training school for all young boys, and through it adults measured their courage, their will to win and their spirit of self-sacrifice.
A cultural heritage to safeguard
Wrestling in traditional society is a global cultural activity, a natural expression of an ethnic, tribal or classical community. It appeals to a set of realities characteristic of a given social group: social, cultural, technical, ethnic and moral realities.
To fight in traditional society was to manifest the vitality of a group, by polarizing all its forces around a character who is its representative. There was, therefore, identification of the group with its wrestler and consequently constant reference of the latter to his group. So, we had:
- The relationship between the wrestler-champion and his group or his community: the wrestler drew his strength from the group which, in its own way, participated in the fight led by its champion. It was well known that a champion who cuts himself off from his group loses part of his strength.
- The age society: it represents young people of the same age. It is within this age group that we can measure the strength of a wrestler over others.
- The role of the mother, the sister and the “scholars” who felt mobilized more particularly to protect their “sons” and ensure his victory. We struggled by donning the loincloth of the sister, sent and given by the mother, so many symbols of moral and physical “inflating and renewal”.
The struggle within the Serer community – the Serers are a community in the center of Senegal - it is also a literature, rituals, a celebration. The wrestling song is a rhythm that depends on the rhythm of the wrestler and the participating group, slow, silent, fast, jerky, inflaming, it is punctuated by the different drums. It is history, reference, encouragement, teaching, advice and revitalization, speaking directly to the wrestler, but also to all participants.
Chants like "Chests scream when a great wrestler strikes down, let's go it's already dark!" “, or even:” I am used to the arenas, but I will not travel the lands looking for talismans, my strength is enough for me” are often intoned by their supporters.
Wrestling is not just a sport, it has a considerable socio-educational aspect.
Focus on wrestling with strikes
Traditional wrestling is topical because it directly affects the cultural heritage of Senegalese society. This sport is a factor of education and social integration which forges and trains the individual through socialization.
Today, however, there is a weak presence of this fight at the national level because most people tend to focus on the professional wrestling.
Apart the flag of the head of state– a national wrestling tournament dedicated to the Head of State bringing together wrestlers from all regions of the country – organized by the National Management Committee (CNG), traditional wrestling seems to be absent from the country's cultural policy projects and programs.
It is urgent for the Ministry of Sports and that of Culture to highlight all the positive aspects of the life of traditional Senegalese society such as traditional wrestling.
Doctor Ousmane Ba, searcher, Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar
This article is republished from The Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.