Photos: Profile of West African wrestlers with juju fetishes.
Reflections on yesterday's Magical Mystery Tour, and next steps:
G. mentioned yesterday that I might find Senegalese wrestling an interesting application of juju fetish, as wrestlers can spend up to months in mystical preparation for their fights, and up to half of their prospective winnings in enlisting the help of marabouts.
For context, the following was excepted from http://www.panapress.com/freenews.asp?code=eng102767&dte=09/01/2006:
The (Senegalese) wrestlers are still attired in the old tradition of loincloth, fully exposing their muscles with the waist and arms bedecked with an assortment of gris-gris charms. But despite all the efforts at modernisms, traditional wrestling a la Senegal still retains its mystic, with a massive dose of razzmatazz, while the marabout still occupy a privileged position in the magical preparations to ensure victory for their wards. Since the average fight lasts less than 10 minutes, the wrestlers and their griots (praise singers), bodyguards and supporters often over-dramatize the prematch warm-up, which in some cases lasts up to two hours, including the time for opening supporting bouts, to ensure that the paying crowd has value for money. The typical preparation for a bout ranges from the enchanting to the bizarre, involving various rituals, including digging up the ground and "bathing" the wrestlers with liquid concoctions.
Note the following links to video of and about Senegalese wrestling:
My interest, with respect to Senegalese wrestling, would be to meet a wrestler, his trainer, and team, to discuss the role of gris-gris and mysticism in their training. Otherwise, I fear the sport becomes a spectacle informed by the absurdity of an American import, such as WWF, as occurs in Mexico.
About giving and taking
From my cultural frame, information, knowledge and experience are commodities of real value. The relevant point is this: When I am asking questions, particularly in a formal interview situation, as when cataloguing medicines, or exploring a vendor's understanding of juju, I am taking something from the vendor without recompense, save the spirited exchange of a convivial conversation. Man, this is Africa, you might say, where a Western view of knowledge as a commodity may not be appropriate. Still, I'm inclined to enter into a contract, whether formal or unspoken, that I am going to take a hour of your time, pick your brain, but compensate with a fair exchange.
The next steps in this requires that I/we hang for a while with individuals, explain our aims, the public nature of the work, and the view that we enter into a fair exchange. In the coming weeks, we will certainly return to meet with a fetish dealer on Ouakam in Medine, a herbalist and incense vendor in Sandaga, and follow-up with the artifact dealer the outside Kermel.