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This helped Edingwe become the sport’s greatest icon, equal parts feared and revered.But those days were long it rains hard in Matete, as it does most days during Congo’s wet season, the labyrinthine streets and alleyways — many of which are unpaved and untraversable by car — quickly become fast-flowing red-brown rivulets carrying trash and human waste between the buildings.However, it’s his challenger, Mal à l’aise, which translates to Ill at Ease, who attacks first.He takes a dead snake from his trainer at the edge of the ring, wraps it around his neck for a moment, then holds it tight with one hand close to its head and the other at the end of its tail, thrusting it repeatedly and exaggeratedly in the direction of Edingwe.Inspired by the movements of gorillas and incorporating both foreign and African fighting styles, mukumbusu was a “reaction to the other martial arts that were brought in by the colonialists,” Pype says.In the late 1970s, a young, cocksure fighter from a poor family in Kinshasa’s ramshackle Matete neighborhood stepped into the ring for the first time.A notorious brawler at school who sometimes even came to blows with his teachers, Edingwe, whose real name is Edmond Ngwe Mapima, had already shown promise in the boxing ring.

But Edingwe soon grows tired of this impetuous display, breaks the spell, and with a swift extension of his right arm and a raised, open palm, calls on the spirits of his ancestors.Fétiche is the foundation on which the Congolese manifestation of contemporary wrestling has been built.Tapping into local superstitions and the widespread Congolese belief in traditional magic, mysticism and the spirit world, Edingwe’s mastery of fétiche gave him an insurmountable advantage over his opponents.He holds them aloft and then lowers them into his gaping mouth; as he eats them, blood pours from the corners of his lips onto his chest.A government minister sitting near the ring faints.

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