In the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, wrestling has traditionally been practiced completely naked. Competitors were only covered in a white ash or cow butter. To the lament of some of the elders, times have changed and most young wrestlers now wear athletic shorts and t-shirts.The regime in Khartoum has banned wrestling and Yida provides a place where people are able to carry on their traditions in peace. (National Geographic)
Each tribe shows support for their wrestlers. Many bring homemade banners complete with commercial branding. (National Geographic)
Showing up early to Nuba wrestling matches in Yida is sound advice. Before the match begins around 5,000 people gather to take part in tribal festivities. Sitting atop a termite mound, this man probably has the best seat in the house.
UNMISS soldiers from MONGBATT (Mongolia Battalion) provide security for the Yida refugee settlement. Housed in the UNHCR compund, they regularly go out on patrols in the community and guard the airfield.
Nuba wrestling matches bring the Yida community together like nothing else. Taking advantage of the crowd, this man steals an opportunity to preach the word of God to a few spectators.
Tribal cheerleaders dance before a wrestling match in Yida. They tie cans and other noisemakers to their ankles to pump up the crowd and bring luck to fighters.
Thousands of refugees from the Nuba Mountains of Sudan gather on the sidelines to watch wrestling matches. (National Geographic)
Crowd control is serious business at the wrestling matches. And fans who cross the line onto the pitch recieve a painful reminder to stay out of the way.
Wrestling is in Zeber Reka's blood. The traditions and techniques that have been passed down for generations find new life in the relative safety of Yida, South Sudan.
19-year-old Zeber Reka, right, squares off against his first opponent of the evening. Zeber made the dangerous journey from the Nuba Mountains after enduring the constant aerial bombing by the Sudanese Air Force. Zeber said that he has "seen people's legs cut off, their heads severed by exploding bombs."
Zeber Reka and Nourdeem Mustafa al-Nour fight in the final match of the day. It's close but Nourdeem finally sucumbs and buckles under the weight of Zeber's heaping muscles. The crowd of over 5,000 erupts in cheering.
Even though these young men fight as hard as they can it's never their intention to harm one another. Nuba wrestler Zeber Reka helps his vanquished opponent to his feet after a violent battle in the ring.
Zeber Reka is widely thought of as the best wrestler in Yida, South Sudan. More than anything else he dreams of traveling to a country like the United States where he can learn proper wrestling techniques and compete on an official level. (National Geographic)