The perfect stroke in rowing is an ideal combination of maximum coordination and power, of individual and collective movement. The Lebu are the original inhabitants of the Dakar peninsula and largely live with and off the ocean. Several times during the year, the different Lebu villages come together to see who has the best rowing team. In the midst of the bustle of an African capital city, the competition is a celebration of their traditions, it unites the villages, and the rowers are revered by their peers, especially the children who dream of being one of them. In November 2019, the rowing team of Ngor village won the competition in Mbao.
The children of Ngor watch as the village's rowing team trains in the waters between the village and the island of the same name. Ngor, on the northeastern tip of the Dakar peninsula, is one of a handful of Lebu communities that exist in the Senegalese capital. Several times a year, the communities compete in rowing.
Ahead of the competition in late November 2019, the rowing team assembles on top of a building. Downstairs, villagers, family and friends wait to send the athletes off to the Lebu village of Mbao, where the competition takes place.
On top of the building and ahead of the competition, Moussa and Tamsir paint their paddles with the names of their wife and girlfriend respectively.
Boubou, captain of the rowing team.
After descending from the rooftop, the athletes pass through several rituals intended to bring them luck for the competition. One of them involves a marabout, whose drawings in the sand have to be walked through.
After passing through more rituals and a joint prayer, the team leaves the village in busses.
Villagers, dressed up in the colors and traditional dress of the team send the busses off to Mbao.
The teams compete in three categories, depending on the size of the boat and rowing team. The largest of the three categories involves a team size of 33: 16 rows of two rowers each and the captain, who sits in the back.
Fans gathered on the shore cheer and run as their teams start the competition. The boats leave from the shore and race towards the horizon. After distances defined by their race category, they turn and finish back on the shore.
A supporter of the Ngor team starts celebrating upon seeing that his team is returning to the shore ahead of its rival Mbao.
Traditional music and dances as well as speeches by local politicians are part of the competitions.
Back in Ngor, the victorious team is greeted by the villagers and does a lap of honor along the shoreline. The children playfully pretend to be rowers themselves.
The Ngor rowing team poses for a picture on the shore of their village.
A proud villager and former rower himself holds the trophy.
Fishing boats are anchored in front of Ngor village, whose silhouette is seen against the evening twilight.