Preserving a ‘Poor Man’s Sport’

A boxer wears a leather pouch of charms around his neck. The fighters are usually decorated in amulets- strands of animal hairs wrapped around gemstones, verses of the Koran written on scraps of paper, other mystical things stuffed into leather pouches. Photo by Chika Oduah. March 2016

A boxer wears a leather pouch of charms around his neck. The fighters are usually decorated in amulets- strands of animal hairs wrapped around gemstones, verses of the Koran written on scraps of paper, other mystical things stuffed into leather pouches. Photo by Chika Oduah. March 2016

 

Recently, I became quite interested in a sport called dambe. It’s a martial art derived from the Hausa people of West Africa. It’s akin to boxing, or kickboxing, actually, because kicking is allowed. I wasn’t so intrigued with the sport itself, because I’m not much of a sports enthusiast. I was fascinated by the people involved in dambe. The fans and spectators, the coaches, the boxers, the financiers…

I went to a few dambe matches in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, and I noticed a clear theme. Most of the people involved in dambe were working class, laborers, petty traders. Abuja is a highly segregated city, stratified along lines of socioeconomic class. The dambe ring is in the outskirts of Abuja, far away from the high-and-mighty elite. It’s far away, as if it’s an eyesore.

All of this was very interesting.

I talked to a bunch of people involved in dambe, made some observations and wrote this piece for Al Jazeera.

The full, unedited version, with more photos is here.

 

 

 

 

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