The Gris Gris Wrestlers of Senegal
Project info

(Gallery updated with new images on September 14, 29016) 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 wrestle 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 theese 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 a firm 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 led to the fact that successful wrestler become media-stars and billionaires and it gives young men in the African country a perspective. For the ones who succeed there are not only social recognition and high money prizes (up to almost 300000 US Dollars for the topstars), but also jobs in the security industry or as a trainer in a wrestling school.

This story won a 2nd prize at the World Press Photo Award 2016, (category sport stories) and was featured on Lens Culture among the Finalists for the Visual Storytelling in 2015.