When boxers come into the gym, they reach a sanctuary. Even more than a protective shield against violence and hardship, female boxers encounter a place for empowerment, where they can build their mind, body and soul. Be it a couple of punch bags and tyres hanging on Bariga’s dust, or a ring tucked within a 9-storey building in Victoria Island – the gym works as a school of morality. Hard work, dedication, endurance and focus are the core values of boxing practice. But it is also a game of confidence and love, a place where one can find sisterhood. Alongside individual perseverance, the shared experience of training, sparring and competing produces one as a worthy fighter.

Even though pioneer Nigerian sportswomen partook in sports in the 1940s, today, boxing remains closely intertwined with masculinity and virility. Thus, Nigerian female boxers are truly transgressive, throwing a timely punch at sports patriarchy. The six women at the core of this exhibition all train and fight in Lagos. Coming from different social backgrounds, some enter high-ranked national championships, while others practice to build self-confidence or overcome their past. Witnessing their strength allows one to get a glimpse of the countless possibilities opened by women, in Nigeria and abroad.

Texts by Claire Nicolas 

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