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Dambe fight in Lagos showcases Nigerian diversity, division



Dambe is a brutal style of combat where one fist is designated as a shield while the other, wrapped in a cloth, is a spear to strike the opponent.

It is traditionally practiced by Hausas in the north, but at the weekend the fight was in Lagos. “This is an ancient tradition in the north and we are bringing it down to the south,” said the commentator. “We want to see teeth rolling!”

Dambe is said to have originated from butchers in the north, who would fight to settle scores and for glory and wives. Instead of in the usual dusty squares and small arenas, the Dambe fighters are under spotlights set up on the beach in Lekki, where a big screen replays fights.

Unlike in the Muslim north, where the crowds are mostly men and alcohol is forbidden, in Lagos women were in the crowd, sipping on cocktails and smoking cigarettes.

The skyscrapers of Eko Atlantic, an extension of Lagos being built on reclaimed land from the ocean, make a modern silhouette on the yellow horizon.

But the attempt to introduce Dambe to the megacity’s elite was notable less for the fighting than as a showcase of Nigeria’s complexity. The Dambe night in Lagos was an exercise in compromise — and patience — as organizers worked to bridge the cultural gap.

Dambe might as well have come from another planet as far as these Lagos spectators were concerned. “I saw it on YouTube, I’ve never seen it live.

It looked so cool,” said Tutu Adetunmbi, a 26-year-old digital editor living in Lagos. “I didn’t know about it before, it’s not out there,” she said, “if you don’t speak Hausa, you won’t understand.”

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