Wrestling has a proven longevity in Africa, it is an entrenched cultural activity amongst numerous ethnic groups & its growing popularity is beginning to rival professional football in some regions.

In the continent of Africa there exists numerous styles of wrestling which have originated amongst the various cultural groups. Documentation goes back over 5,000 years with the sport portrayed in Egyptian art & hieroglyphics. The Nubian Empire from what is now Sudan has an equally ancient heritage in wrestling, as likewise attested in their artwork & most anthropologists generally concede that the modern Nuba hill tribes of the Kordofan Mountains are the inheritors of this tradition http://wysinger.homestead.com/nubiansport.html

In Senegal, where traditional wrestling has become a professional sport, the Griot bards keep an ancient story alive about the origin of wrestling in West Africa & tell of a mysterious race of beautiful black skin men who walked out of the desert & taught this spiritual art to the ancestors of the Wolof people. These men came from a mysterious eastern land called Merou An, which was rich in gold & had many fantastic palaces; this has now been equated with the ancient Nubian capital called Meroe, a city that has more pyramids than Cairo. There are in fact many parallels between the wrestling cultures of Sudan & Senegal that many speculate confirms this connection, exactly as sung by the bards of Senegal.  See video

West African wrestling has always been a popular intra-village sport used as an essential part of the initiation process of turning boys into men & it was documented by 9th century Arab traders that wrestlers were held in high esteem by the Ghana warlords of the first major political unit of the region, the Empire of Wagadu. Despite the rise & fall of many subsequent kingdoms, wrestling has continued to be used by numerous ethnicities as a substitute for violence, allowing a controlled outlet for aggression in the young men. Nigeria’s complex ethnic mix confirms this & wrestling is still a key cultural sport of the Hausa people in the north of the country, where it is called kokowa, the Yoruba people in the south, where it is called Gidigbo & the Igbo people of the south-east where it is called Ngba, so beautifully described in the Chinua Achebe’s 1958 novel “Things Fall Apart”. Wrestling was used as a peace keeping ritual in the theocratic Kingdom of Nri for well over a millennium & the remnant of this can still be seen during the annual Iri Iji New Yam Festival practiced by the Igbo people around the world.

Why should the African people currently living in Australia give any effort to support the development of the sport in Australia?

The United Nations Educational, Scientific & Scientific Organisation UNESCO now recognises several traditional styles of wrestling from around the world as being integral parts of the “Intangible Cultural Heritage” of their nations of origin & the Australian Society of Traditional Wrestlers (ASTW) is aiming to achieve an annual showcase event to highlight all the traditional styles within its network that may one day gain a similar recognition. This can only be achieved with the support of an organization that represents the African continent in Australia. 

The African Wrestling & Sports Federation of Australia would therefore serve a dual purpose. Yes it could significantly assist in boosting the general growth of wrestling in Australia but just as importantly it would help to foster the cultural continuity of African migrant communities that have settled in the Great Southern Land. There are a plethora of festivals scattered across the country in which these sports could be demonstrated & by joining a larger wrestling community, African immigrants would have an opportunity to mingle with the rest of Australian society in a truly positive way. These reasons are enough for anyone to give support to such a development & I for one honestly hope this endeavour succeeds in its goals.

Gavin Dickson

National Convenor

Australian Society of Traditional Wrestlers

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