|HOW WAS WERSTLING CONDUCTED IN THE KISSI CULTURE?
Michael Fayia Kallon
In the past, the Kissi had lots of games that kept them busy, and enjoyed the cool zephyrs of the evenings. They called wrestling – “Nken-dun-ngbe-deh, or Le-gbedon-kaen-doh” It metaphorically means – to make the ribs strong. Such contests were organized by the strongest men, or the chiefs and elders in the village, and the purpose was to make the weaker men physically strong and to get them ready for war if that was the case. It should be noted that “chovoh – means war, and “chea-la-bar” – means to fight.
In order to make two enemies or friends fight, there were men who instigated them by pulling hairs on their heads. The person, who goes to pull hairs on the head on an opponent, will then start the fight. If that did not work, the stronger man will pretend to touch another man’s crouch, which symbolized an undignified attitude and disgrace in the Kissi culture, and thus a fight may be provoked.
It should be clear that stronger men wore amulets and other idols which were made by the native herbalists and they used them to make them invincible, stronger, and more protected. On important wrestling days, traditional musicians and griots were invited and the drummers and shaker players, and women with melodious voices sang and played nonstop. The tapers brought enough palm and bamboo wine, and the locally distilled ‘cane juice,’ or ‘Tamba Nanjah,’ was in abundance for everyone to enjoy.
The stronger man who pinned four guys down, was considered a hero, and would then become an elder, headhunter, marry, and have children and were given land by the chiefs to lay farms; and would be a leader in war. The ground was prepared in such a way that it was like a mat; made with grass they cut from the swamp which appeared like a sponge so that anyone who fell would be protected from injuries.
The fight was conducted in a manner where the contestants did not intend to hurt each other. There was mild kicking, and mild fist fighting and swinging, but the main aim was to pin someone down and hold them until they voiced out openly that they have been defeated. They fought many times, and a person has to be defeated four times before winner could be crowned the victor.
Such extravaganzas were held after the farming season, and when the rains had ceased, and the ground hard, and the Kissi had enough food they ate during these occasions. Yet, the griots were the praise singers who constant reported the results of the wrestling match, and announced who was victim, and who was victor.
The occasion was blessed when the moon light showered them with rays of beams, and the singers sang incessantly, the drums echoed nonstop, and the griots yelled constantly, to keep the peace.
Michael Fayia Kallon