INTRODUCTION: Hundreds of young men and boys gathered at Afgoy, in Somalia, recently for some fierce-looking fighting.
GV Teams enter field for stick-fighting competition. 0.11
GV Competitors line up to show their sticks to officials and move away from dais. 0.24
SV Competitors move off to prepare for games. 0.30
SV ZOOM INTO Riot police equipped with mesh shields stand by. (2 SHOTS) 0.40
SV Competitors show their sticks to officials. 0.48
SV Hundreds of competitors with sticks massed in field moving out into team formation. 1.10
GV Man blows simbar trumpet signalling start of games. 1.15
GV Stick fighting in progress with riot police acting as referees, and competitors wave their sticks. (3 SHOTS) 1.46
Background: INTRODUCTION: Hundreds of young men and boys gathered at Afgoy, in Somalia, recently for some fierce-looking fighting. But it was fierce in looks only -- as they were competing in the annual Istunka festival, a mock fight which lasts for three days.
SYNOPSIS: Afgoy, about twenty kilometres south of Mogadishu, is in the centre of one of Somalia's major agricultural regions.
There, in a large field set aside for the festival, competitors lined up before officials, who included local dignitaries and judges.
The actual fighting comes at the end of several days of dancing and celebration of the traditional event.
The police, who act as referees during the fights, wear protective gear for very good reasons. They're usually caught in the thick of the fighting.
The sticks the competitors use in the fights are checked by officials to make sure they meet required standards. They must be freshly-cut, flexible and green, so they don't inflict wounds. Hard sticks are rejected. It's believed the traditional fighting began several centuries ago when the ruling Sultan, Sheik Alim, wanted the people to learn how to defend their land. Local superstition has it that the rains will fail if the Istunka isn't held.
The fighting begins, and from the spectators' view the police referees seem to be taking the biggest beating. It would be hard to say which team was winning, but it takes an initiate to understand the intricate rules governing the fighting. At this stage there were another two days' of fighting to go, so it would be anyone's guess as to the eventual winners.