|Children stand in a beached boat at Marenga Beach, watching a race boat pass by the shoreline while practicing for the upcoming race.|
My area may have generally sacrificed much of their traditional culture in favor of a more western lifestyle, but at least one time each year, my community harkens back to the days of old, when their traditions were strong and distinct.
The Abanyala people have a strong heritage in both water and land sports. The main traditional sports for the Abanyala are three: boat racing, tug-of-war, and wrestling. The winners from this region would move onto national competition in Kisumu. From there, the top teams would move on to represent the nation against teams from the other East African nations bordering Lake Victoria: Uganda and Tanzania. The Abanyala people are very well represented in the lore of past champions.
These traditions continue through today, but whereas they used to be practiced throughout the year, they are now reserved only for the Christmas season. I had the pleasure of attending these events over the past few days.
The sporting events are held over three days: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day (December 26th).
Port Victoria, in my district, hosted the Christmas Eve events. I had to choose between boats at Marenga Beach, or land sports in town. I chose boat racing, knowing that I'd be able to see the other sports on the final day.
Christmas Day involves primarily football and rugby in Sio Port, a village in the neighboring district of Samia, but I decided to spend the holiday in my village instead.
Bumbe, a small village just outside of Bunyala District, next to the town of Sisenye, hosted the final day of events on Boxing Day. Along the beach, many various sporting events were held, including boat racing, swimming, boxing, tug-of-war, and wrestling. At a nearby field, football and rugby matches were also held.
Marenga Beach, Bunyala District - Monday, December 24th
|A panoramic of Lake Victoria taken Monday morning before the day's events.|
|Another panoramic from the shores of Marenga Beach as people gather to watch the impending boat races.|
|Several groups of 'wamama' kicked off the day with traditional singing and dancing.|
|Another group of local women from Bunyala dancing during Monday's festivities.|
|The crowd enthusiastically watches as the victorious boat approaches the shore. Supporters wave their flags in excitement.|
|Another panoramic of the shoreline, now packed with spectators.|
|Overcome with fervor, fans run into the lake, celebrating as their boat takes a narrow lead as it rounds a corner out at sea. Unfortunately, they lost their elation as another boat overtook theirs on the final stretch.|
|Fellow Peace Corps Volunteers Amber, Taneasha, Anna, and Brittnee visited me for the two days of events. We were able to head out in the guide boat during one of the heats for a closer view.|
|One of the teams cutting deftly through the waters.|
|The surrounding coastline was absolutely packed with spectators from nearby villages. It was a huge turnout, and completely local.|
Bumbe, Samia District - Tuesday, December 26th
|I arrived at the beach in Bumbe early, and met a friend of mine, Tobi, who works and lives in Budalang'i, but is originally from Bumbe and was spending the holidays there with his family. I went out with him on a boat to set the course with buoys.|
|A panoramic of the crowd along the wide, vast beach at Bumbe as they watch the boat racing get underway.|
|A group of 'wamama' from Samia District showing me their dance moves.|
|The first land sport of the day was boxing. These young boys had quite a height, and potentially an age disparity, but the smaller, shorter boy on the right held his own in a draw.|
|These young men had a dynamic match, the man on the left claiming victory over his opponent.|
|A team of men struggling to hold on as their opponents trench in.|
|Entertainment for the day also included this improv group, performing in the local language Olusamia, a different dialect from Olunyala, the language of my district. The only real difference is that r's change to t's.|
|Once the hold is made, they go to slam their opponent to the ground, thus claiming victory for the round.|
|Another picture of the improv group entertaining the crowd during rounds of wrestling.|
|As always, hip hop culture knows no bounds. This young man held the crowd's utmost attention as he rapped over a popular song from the area.|