Wrestling

Mungo Park was a Scottish explorer who traveled to West Africa between 1795-1797. While there among the Mandingos , he was invited to witness a wrestling match. His journey took him through the countries of Senegal and Mali.Below, is the account of the wrestling match he witnessed.

 

 

 

 

"The inhabitants of Koojar beheld Mr. Park with great surprize, and in the evening invited him to a wrestling match at the bentang, or town-hall. This is an amusement common in all the Mandingo countries. The spectators arranged themselves in a circle, leaving the intermediate space for the wrestlers, who were strong and active young men. Being stripped of their clothing, except a short pair of drawers, and having their skins anointed with oil, or shea butter, the combatants approached each other on all fours, parrying with, and occasionally extending a hand for some time, till at length one of them sprang forward and caught his rival by the knee. Great dexterity and judgment were now displayed; but the contest was decided by superior strength; and few Europeans would have been able to cope with the conqueror. **

During the wrestling, the combatants were animated by the music of a drum, by which, in some measure, their actions were regulated. The wrestling was succeeded by a dance, in which many performers assisted, all of whom were provided with little bells, which were fastened to their legs and arms. The drum also regulated the dancing; it was beaten with a crooked stick which the drummer held in his right hand, occasionally using the left to deaden the sound, and thus vary the music. The drum is also applied on these occasions for the preservation of order among the spectators, by imitating the sound of certain Mandingo sentences. For example, when the wrestling match is about to begin, the drummer strikes what is understood to signify, Sit all down; upon which the spectators immediately seat themselves, and when the combatants are to begin, he strikes, Take hold ! take hold! "

 

 

source : Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa...By Mungo Park ,vol.1,p 37,  1820