Tuesday, July 14, 2009

La Lutte- the fight

We made it to Burkina Faso's capital city of Ouagadougou a little over a week ago, complete with a 5am start time accompanied by a nonstop downpour, a 45 min taxi ride to the border with a flat tire some where along the way, 2 hours waiting for customs at the border, and finally a 5 hour bus ride along not so well kept roads... and without much of an option, I officially made my public peeing debut at the border, but I was savy enough to have worn a skirt this time (all the Togolese women wear skirts, and simply squat along side the road, not revealing too much-- normally on these long bus rides I hide away in the bushes). I tried to take care of business as quickly as possible, avoiding eye contact with the motos wizzing by.

Before crossing the border to Burkina we spent 5 days in the northern Togolese city of Kara, staying with the family of a Togolese friend of Ray's back in the US (David Lembo). In many villages around Kara there is an annual week long rite of passage for boys of a particular tribe, known as 'La Lutte' (the fight)-- wrestling matches that take place 4 at a time in a grass field in front of hundreds of cheering, singing, and dancing spectators. To marry you must 'fight' (even if you only ever loose) and once you have married you are no longer allowed to participate. The wrestling matches take place between boys of the same village, as matches between villages would only bring war, we were told.

We were told La Lutte would begin at 6am, but arrived only to find out it would be closer to 9, or maybe 10, because the President was expected to attend. The dirt road down to where the matches were to take place was lined with women wearing identical outfits covered with the President's face, clapping and singing for hours in anticipation. A heavy police and military presence tried to keep the crowd contained, as groups of people moved around the field singing and dancing (some wearing masks, and others covered in a white powder) in celebration for their fighters.

I lost interest in the actual wrestling matches (which entailed one man flipping over or pinning down his opponent to large cheers from the crowd) after seeing about 5 sets of 4 simultaneous matches in a grass/mud field, each which quickly followed the one before it. What was interesting was the sheer number of boys/soon to be men lined up on opposing hillsides ready for their turn.

We left before the crowds, and were soon on our way to the border town of Dapeong for our last couple of nights in Togo before heading to Burkina (and my public peeing).


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