August Udoh is a photojournalist and a big name in the craft of photography who has got unmatchable skills in putting forward excellent storytelling. With his skills of photography and that of creating a story through it, he is greatly praised for his work. He is praised and celebrated as the most talented celebrity photographer of Nigeria but it is the stories of those on the very margins of society that are more important to him.
From the super amazing Nollywood actresses to the well-famed afrobeat superstars, August Udoh has captured quite an amazing lot of people.
But this time around, it was not something famous but rather an underground art. August captured the underground martial arts of Nigeria called Dambe.
Dambe is a martial art sport in Nigeria where the aim is to knock out an opponent with a one-armed strike. In this new series by August Udoh, he captured the boxers who compete.
In the latest photo series by August Udoh, Dambe, he has encapsulated the pictures of ordinary working men in his camera. About the models of his series he said,
‘They have normal jobs. Some are truck drivers, others mechanics’
But with one exception – their downtime is spent competing in martial arts sport dambe.
What is Dambe?
“I had a security guard from the north who was talking about it and he showed me a video posted online I thought this is actually true – there is an underground fighting club that a lot of people in Nigeria don’t know about.”
The history of Dambe
The history of Dambe dates back to earlier centuries. This queer sport stems from the Hausa people in northern Nigeria. It was basically the local butchers of those times by trade who competed with each other and did Dambe. The foremost rule of Dambe is that it requires you to tie one hand with a material. The stronger punching hand known as the spear is traditionally tied with cotton and rope because it is the game of one arm that can kill. However, the other hand works as a shield against opponent’s punches.
The contestants are allowed to kick as well. The fight only ends when one opponent falls to the ground. The falling is referred to as ‘kill’. Historically, the covered hand used to be dipped in resin and it used to be covered in shards of glass but over time it was banned. Instead of that, boxing gloves were introduced in some parts of Nigeria, to make this sport safer for people to participate in. However, due to the massive injuries the participants get at the end, a lot of people still consider it as a brutal sport and this is why it has been kept underground until now.
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“Usually the fight organizers make 50,000 Naira ($137) a day.”
“As a fighter – champions earn a lot. If you’ve won a lot of fights then you get paid more. There is a hierarchy thing where you attract high fees because you bring in the crowd.”“People send money back to their parents, one fighter was given a house.”