Fante women in the belt pulling wrestling. Ghana, 1910.
Smithonian Institute, Washington, USA. Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art.
Illustration from "The World Encyclopedia of Wrestling" by A.C.Mandzyak and O.L.Artemenko (in Russian).
The Fante or Mfantsefo (obsolete spelling Fanti) are an ethnic group of West Africa predominantly in southern Ghana and southeastern Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). They speak a dialect of Akan language family - the largest group in both countries. Currently, their population is about 2 million, one of the largest groups of Akan peoples. Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General belongs to Fante. Inheritance and succession to public office among the Fante are determined mostly by matrilineal descent, as is common among most Akan peoples.
Ahumadsin sua-sua ("imitation of storm") is a group of Fante’s traditional wrestling styles which are known from the old times as effective means for physical and military training. Sua-sua competitions were held during traditional calendar festivals and celebrations.
Fante practiced wrestling in a few different styles. The first one was a freestyle wrestling including painful techniques against joints. It had various throws and leg-to-leg techniques. Its observers compared this style to Japanese Judo.
Another wrestling form practiced by Fante was belt wrestling in which opponents had to keep holding each other by belt by the end of the bout. The goal was to throw the opponent down to the ground. This form was popular among women. One of its varieties was a very specific contest involving two teams of contenders. The first pair takes its initial stand by holding ach other by the belt. Then two groups of contestants stand behind them forming two competing chains. At the referee signal, the two teams start pulling. In order to win a bout, a team should manage to pull the other team to their side or to take the leading contestant down not releasing the belt holds. If a leading contestant releases the hold, his/her team lost the match.
As other West-African ethnics, Fante has adopted a unified West African wrestling style "Lutte Traditionnelle" (traditional wrestling in French). Nowadays, wrestling competitions became entertaining shows with elements of traditional Senegalese wrestling. They are men only events; participating women in the official competitions in this sport is out of the question.
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