Africa & Wrestling (1984 vs 2020)

Africa & Wrestling (1984 vs 2020)

After hearing about the passing away of James Harris (better known as Kamala), I took off to YouTube and found myself watching several videos about Kamala. May his soul, rest in peace. Given that the name of this blog is titled Visually African, I felt that I needed to post my condolences over his passing away. Growing up as a kid in the 90s, there was no wrestler that was as “Visually African” as Kamala! This fictional character that WWF built around James Harris was our one African hero for a long while.

There were other African wrestlers that came before him and plenty more after, but at his time, some of us had never seen any wrestler that moved and looked like this “Ugandan Giant”. I hope his family and friends know that he will be greatly missed.

Wrestling was (and continues to be) one of the biggest and most loved things on television. Africa’s unrelenting love-affair with wrestling is evident in YouTube productions like the one below. I hope their YouTube channel never gets taken down because I am a huge fan of this gang!

Africa has an unrelenting love-affair with wrestling

The very same Africans that grew up watching Kamala, Million Dollar Man, British Bulldog, Ultimate Warrior, and Tatanka, are now making YouTube videos like the one above. I also attached an African Divas version of those parody matches you’ve just seen above. You’ll find the divas’ match at the end of this post. Kamala and his generation inspired the continent to dream, even up to now.

James Harris’ wrestling career started in 1978 but he only came to WWF in 1984 and would later return in 1986. Due to the magic of re-runs and outdated broadcasts, some of us were lucky enough to find his matches still on air when we were born. Now that I look back at the old kind of African wrestlers we grew up seeing, I can’t help but note some strong visual differences with today’s African wrestlers.

Here in 2020, Ghanaian born wrestlers like Kofi Kingston (real name Kofi Nahaje Sarkodie-Mensah) are no longer carrying that same “tribal” energy that legends like Kamala had. An interesting point to note is that Kamala, (The Ugandan Giant) was actually not born in Uganda, as we grew up believing. At the very least I presumed as a kid that he could have been from Kenya or Ghana. Even those hunches of mine were wrong, James Harris was actually born in Mississippi, USA.

Fast forward to 2020 (or rather 2006) if you want to consider the actual year that Kofi Kingston stepped into pro-wrestling. We can now see that, on this side of the millennium wrestlers like New Day’s Kofi Kingston (and his “New Day” tag team partners) can now be seen dancing into the ring with pancakes, trumpets, and a very colourful, unicorn-themed wardrobe. If you are not a staunch “New Day” you might be surprised to know that while Kamala was a fictional Ugandan persona, Kofi Kingston, on the other hand, was actually born in Africa.

Pancakes, trumpets and a very colourful, unicorn themed wardrobe. Image from TJR Wrestling

Which all means, over the years WWF (now WWE) has gone from having American-born fighters with African back stories. To African-born wrestlers with a Jamaican back story. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section on how things have changed or not changed in your own opinions.

In the YouTube video below New Day talks about archetypical African-American Superstars in the wrestling universe. As promised I also included the “African divas” parody-wrestling match video below. Thank you so much for reading this, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts below.


2 thoughts on “Africa & Wrestling (1984 vs 2020)

  1. They are actors – that’s what it means. Same way Denzel played Steve Biko. Wrestling reflects the racism in society through these performances

    1. Thank you so much for being the 1st person ever to comment on this new blog. Yes, Wrestling has had some very controversial issues within it. After writing this article I had the chance to watch a WWE true-story-movie called “Fighting with my family” it showed somethings I had never thought about. Apparently the movie was based on a documentary with the same name. It’s a recommendable film to wrestling fans. Again, thank you for engaging with the blog.

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