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BOSTON— In the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, wrestling is as popular as the World Wrestling Federation is in the U.S.

The main difference: The Congolese introduce a mystical "voodoo" element to the pantomime.

The hypnotic beat of drums and the loud melodic trumpets announce the beginning of the wrestling match.

Photographer Benedicte Kurzen,  stands just outside the ring in Brazzaville, documenting the wrestlers' traditions and showmanship. Here is what she found:

 


Marching band members play before a match in Brazzaville. (Benedicte Kurzen/VII Network--Special to GlobalPost)


Congolese women sell tickets through a smashed window in Brazzaville. (Benedicte Kurzen/VII Network/ GlobalPost)


The hands of Minzoto Bulemi, also known as "Super Anguluma". (Benedicte Kurzen/VII Network/GlobalPost)


Congolese marching band members in Brazzaville. (Benedicte Kurzen/VII Network/GlobalPost)


Siboli from Kinshasa (left) appears paralyzed by a powder used by Amigo from Brazzaville during a tournament. (Benedicte Kurzen/VII Network/GlobalPost)


Kadima Kayombo, known as "Mabokotomo," demonstrates one of his wrestling techniques in Kinshasa. (Benedicte Kurzen/VII Network/GlobalPost)


Bougie Rouge, also known as "Red Candle," stands in the background before fighting while his "Little Buddha," or magic assistant, dances. (Benedicte Kurzen/VII Network/GlobalPost)


Congolese wrestlers train at Marturs Stadium in Kinshasa. (Benedicte Kurzen/VII Network/GlobalPost)


Makasi Tskiwa, 46, known as "Big Papa T," faces away from the camera in Kinshasa. (Benedicte Kurzen/VII Network/GlobalPost)


Locango Ndoki, "The Sorcerer," worships his witchcraft statue before a match in Brazzaville. (Benedicte Kurzen/VII Network/GlobalPost)


Congolese wrestlers train at the Marturs Stadium in Kinshasa. (Benedicte Kurzen/VII Network/GlobalPost)


"Big Papa T," poses for the camera in Kinshasa. (Benedicte Kurzen/VII Network/GlobalPost)


Wrestlers train near Badiading camp in Kinshasa. (Benedicte Kurzen/VII Network/GlobalPost)


"Red Tiger," lies down in the ring after pretending to eat one of his opponent's eyes during a match in Brazzaville. (Benedicte Kurzen/VII Network/GlobalPost)


The magic assistant of "Red Tiger," watches the defeat of his master at Mbonge Stadium. (Benedicte Kurzen/VII Network/GlobalPost)


The star of Congolese wrestling, Endingwe, from Kinshasa, lies in a coffin during a match. (Benedicte Kurzen/VII Network/GlobalPost)


Congolese supporters surround Siboli from Kinshasa, as he celebrates his victory at the Mbonge Stadium. (Benedicte Kurzen/VII Network/GlobalPost)

 

About the photographer:

Benedicte Kurzen, 29, is based in Johannesburg and in 2008 was selected to join the VII Photo Mentor Program. She holds a master's degree in contemporary history from the Sorbonne. In 2003, she moved to Israel and took up photography, covering hard news in the Gaza Strip, later working in Iraq and Lebanon.

Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Time and Paris Match, among others. Encouraged by a photographer to contribute to a "Violence Against Women" project, Benedicte changed from news to documentary photography. In 2005, with five others, she founded EVE Photographers and moved to South Africa, traveling from there across the continent.

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