Toute arme forgée contre moi sera sans effet by Colin Delfosse.
Kinshasa is a stormy and turbulent city. Crowded bars, small boutiques and crappy hostels surround the main road to the city centre. Hundreds of vehicles pile up in a huge traffic jam where pedestrians, cyclist and bikers wriggle into. The sweat and dust stick to your skin. Noise is everywhere: the humming noise of engines mixed with zouk music played by old radio speakers. The Congolese roar is astonishing. Voodoo wrestling is probably the most striking expression of this daily madness.
I encountered this thrilling spectacle by accident when I was shooting a project about mining in the province of Katanga. In the former flourishing colonial town of Kolwezi, a car passed by with a wrestler standing on top. On the banger roof, a half naked face-painted man, was dancing to a bellowing orchestra. A group of street kids was following the motorcade in a dust cloud. I thought this subject would reveal a fun and positive side to a country hurt by war and poverty. The wrestling matches are a far cry from the horror, and provide escapist excitement for people living in the poorer neighbourhoods of the big cities, predominately in Kinshasa.
Back in the Congolese capital few months later, it didn’t take me long to find those athletes again. If voodoo wrestling is completely unknown in the rest of the world, it’s a very popular spectator pastime in DRC. Most people remember of TV shows where Edingwe, a terrifying hero of the 90s, disembodied his opponents and chewed on their insides.
In the dark and muddy streets of Matete district, the atmosphere was warm and full of music. The boxing ring was trembled by the collision between the fighters. But what struck me more than anything was the theatrical performance. Beyond the fetish and other magic objects, the Congolese wrestlers were fantastic actors. Authentic showmen, doing magic dance and physical exploit to hold the public spellbound. This urban theatre circled by a rope borrows from traditional dance as much as the pantomime histrionics of American wrestling, an amalgam of two disciplines that seem to come from opposite spectrums to create a new one: Voodoo Wrestling.