Kinshasa. Ten million inhabitants, thousands of shégués (street children), hundreds of wrestlers and their brass bands. Edingwe, Dragon, City Train, Mabokotomo; the “legends” of Congolese wrestling are reinvented every day in the suburbs of the city.
Bodybuilding or black magic enthusiasts, they fight for glory in makeshift boxing rings. Often coming from the street, their charisma is an object of respect and admiration: two major assets in beautiful Kinshasa.
Kinshasa is a storm on a lake of lava. Collared by officials and holders, those who land at Njili airport usually find out about it in less than a minute. Yet Kinshasa’s clamour has something stunning and astonishing, and Congolese wrestlers are the most vivid expression of this daily madness.
In the working-class suburbs of this city of nearly ten million inhabitants, Edingwe, Dragon, City Train, Mabokotomo, the “legends” of the Congolese wrestling are reinvented every day. Bodybuilding or black magic enthusiasts, they fight for glory in makeshift boxing rings. Often coming from the street, their charisma is an object of respect and admiration: two major assets in beautiful Kinshasa.
These men – taxi drivers, street vendors and for the luckiest, bodyguards – are the new heroes of Kinshasa’s nights. Heroes that have grown up with Congolese resourcefulness and have tried to improve their daily routine through wrestling. When the sun goes down, after hanging up their daily lives, they get dressed up in masks and outfits to challenge those who, like them, have a thirst for glory.
Their synchronised moves between the ring’s four ropes are typical of traditional Congolese dance steps. Congolese people have succeeded in unifying what was once two distinct disciplines – dancing and fighting – into “wrestling voodoo’’ – a performance that is as athletic as it is artistic.
Let the show begin …
Text and photos : Colin Delfosse www.outoffocus.be