This is an extended edit of a documentary project on La Lutte, Senegalese traditional wrestling. The original project was named a finalist in the LensCulture Visual Storytelling Awards 2015. Discover more inspiring work from all of the winners and finalists.

Wrestling, “la lutte” in French or “lamb” in the Senegalese native language, is by far the most popular sport in Senegal, even more popular than football. Almost everybody, from the toddler up to the grandmother pursues the big wrestling matches either in the stadium, the television or on the street.

Senegalese wrestling differs from wrestling matches in western and Asian countries mostly because of mystic rituals. In the western colloquial language, these mystical rituals are often called Voodoo, but the Senegalese call it “Gris-gris.” The mystical rituals are performed with the presentation of amulets, the use of magic potions, hypnotic drum sounds, songs and dance, all as an integral part of the wrestling show.

In the last 10 years, “La Lutte Sénégalaise” has become a million-dollar spectacle, mostly because of big telecom sponsors, TV stations and new media channels. This has resulted in the fact that successful wrestlers become media-stars and millionaires, giving young men across this African country a new career to dream about . For the ones who succeed, there is not only social recognition and high money prizes (purses of up to 300,000 US Dollars for the top stars), but also jobs in the security industry or as a trainer in a wrestling school.

— Christian Bobst