The Bakweri (Kpwe, Kpe, Baakpe) are an ethnic group of the Republic of Cameroon with population of 71,000. They live in over 100 villages east and southeast of Mount Cameroon According to their oral tradition, they lived near Mount Cameroon even four thousand years ago. Historically, the Bakweri are territorial people and fierce fighters who have always defended their rights, land and culture against surrounding tribes and colonizing powers of Germany and Britain. Although the Bakweri are now completely modernized, some have even converted to Christianity; they are still attached to their ancestral traditions and have retained their ancient tribal organization.
Mountaineers Bakweri keep up their ancient traditions including wrestling style Wesuwa, the Bakweri traditional sport, encompasses all the qualities the Bakweri have inherited from their ancestors: physical endurance, agility, fierce fighting techniques, and a great sense of competition. Wrestling is known as wesuwa and it's taken very seriously by all the members of the community. In the past wrestling used to be an important way of determining leadership in the villages and clans; wrestling contests served for solving conflicts between villages which sometimes caused following hostility between villages. For instance, in 1891, a wrestling contest between villages Ghango and Molonde spilled over into a war. Now Wesuwa is just a sport, even though very prestigious.
Fortunately, this behavior now a thing of the past. Today, wrestling is a friendly competition drawing a huge crowd from all over the region. Wrestling tournaments are held during traditional celebrations. The most important are tournaments in villages called “fee-nda” holding annually in February and March Every Sunday for eight weeks in February and March every village gathers their best wrestlers in a major contest to see who has the best fighters with athletes showing off their fighting prowess. Each village is the host of the wrestling for one day. Tribe councils of each village endorse the best wrestlers for the inter village contest.
Wrestling is known as wesuwa and it's taken very seriously by all the members of the community. In the past wrestling used to be an important way of determining leadership in the villages.
Fortunately, this behavior now a thing of the past. Today, wrestling is a friendly competition drawing a huge crowd from all over the region. Every Sunday for eight weeks in February and March every village gathers their best wrestlers in a major contest to see who has the best fighters with athletes showing off their fighting prowess. Each village is the host of the wrestling for one day.
Stern traditions and customs of Bakweri have trained Bakweri women to be strong and belligerent, so they also actively participating in the wrestling demonstrating good speed, persistence, strength and skills. They may compete not only to measure strength against each other but also to prove themselves in front of the community and potential mates – strength and endurance are very valuable qualities for wives and mothers.
To set the atmosphere, drummers on an elevated stage beat intricate rhythms on large log drums “jii-mbi” and “molumba” throughout the match while the crowds sing wrestling songs “mosoko”, roar and shout encouragement to the wrestlers. Before the match, the opposite sides sing their songs which may glorify a village or clan champion (“ngumu”) who is going to wrestle or contain precepts to the wrestlers and spectators.
As classic Ancient Greek wrestling, Wesuwa is mostly a standing style. Legs are not used, neither are actions against the opponent’s legs (trips, etc.). A contestant wins a bout by throwing an opponent on his/her back or by taking him/her down and then either rolling the opponent on his/her back or forcing to flat on the stomach. In order to defeat the opponent, arch throws and other techniques are used. Nowadays, female wrestlers wear skirts whereas men wrestle wearing a cloth around hips.
In fact, following the ancient traditions of this people, Bakweri women practice a form of wrestling rare for women in which just arms and upper body are used, like in Greco-Roman style. Moreover, Bakweri women not just wrestle each other in their villages but also participate in national Greco-Roman wrestling competitions; some of them even become champions.
The contest culminates with the announcement of the year's champion wrestler who is then carried among the spectators to loud acclaim accompanied by tradition songs and dances performed by the cheerleaders - the elder tribeswomen.
Bakweri wresling episodes