Africa: Surma - Stick fighting: The Pulse of the Planet daily radio program offers free legal online mp3 downloads, exploring the world of sound in nature, culture and science, with audio adventures, world music, extraordinary sound portraits, science diaries, and nature ring-tones; an amazing sonic experience.

Airdate: Sep 07, 2000
Scientist: Angela Fisher & Carol Beckwith

Africa: Surma - Stick fighting

Africa:  Surma - Stick fighting
Stick fighting among the Surma tribe of Africa is fierce and violent. But they do it in the name of love.

ambience Stick Fight

It's said to be one of the fiercest competitions on the entire African continent. But here among Ethiopia's Surma tribe, the Donga Stick Fight takes place in the name of love. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. When their harvest season is over, the Surma people observe a period of courtship, spending days by the river, fingerpainting designs on their bodies. And according to photographer Angela Fisher, co-author of the book "African Ceremonies", the next stage of the Surma courtship tradition is not quite so peaceful.

"Once the bodies are painted and men and women have started courting one another, the other side of courtship starts. Once a week, the Surma men from different villages come together, sometimes walking thirty miles on very small grass paths to meet one another to perform the most wild sport we have ever seen on the entire African continent. The donga stick fight is fought with long, straight poles of about eight foot long made of very hard wood, and the Surma men perform these fights to prove their masculinity, to settle personal vendettas, but most importantly, to win wives."

This competition has only one rule: you cannot kill your opponent.

"And at the end of the day, the winner of the day's fighting bouts is carried out of the arena on a wonderful platform of poles, and he’s held high in the air, and he’s carried towards a group of very beautiful young girls. So as he arrives, the winner is taken by one of the girls."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.