New Collaboration Between Ken Hermann and Gem Fletcher Explores Wrestling in Inner Mongolia

November 28, 2016

By Lynne Schreur

© Ken Hermann

© Ken Hermann

© Ken Hermann

© Ken Hermann

When a boy is born in Inner Mongolia, his family prays for him to become a wrestler. This tradition is still a key status symbol in the nomadic community and the central focus of many young men’s lives. Danish photographer Ken Hermann and British Art Director Gem Fletcher came together to create “Bökh” a photo and film series exploring this tradition.

“Bökh” was shot in the Grasslands on Inner Mongolia, an area of northern China which has a strong Mongolian population. The Grasslands are vast open spaces, which run from the mountains of Inner Mongolia to the border of Outer Mongolia and have been home to nomadic communities for centuries.

“We were interested in this lesser known form of wrestling only found and practiced by a small group of men in Inner Mongolia. The strong cultural heritage and ritual of the sport intrigued us,” said photographer Ken Hermann. “We were particularly interested in how it governed status for young men within the community as well as defining manliness.”

Hermann and Fletcher worked with a coach to connect them with the group of wrestlers who they shot over the course of 10 days.

“After spending time getting to know the wrestlers, one thing which stood out was how they navigate between the past and present,” continued Hermann. “As young men they intuitively transition between a passionate dedication to continuing this cultural tradition which dates back centuries, while also being interested in present day fashion and culture, despite having exceptionally limited connection to the internet and living in a very remote location.”

“Bökh” includes both photographs and a short film which premiered on NOWNESS on November 25. The photographs have won Best in Book as part of the Creative Review Photo Annual which released on November 24.