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RHA Gallery Event
Dublin
By Rob_Nolan
08 May 2018

Mainly venue & Food shots from Ball at the RHA

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
21 Apr 2014

While the rest of Georgia celebrates Easter at home around a dinner table, the small village of Shukhuti in the western region of Guria fights in an ancient game called Lelo. Men from upper and lower parts of the village participate in several hour battle for 16 kg Lelo Burti ball. Whatever part of the village brings the ball to its side wins the game. The goal lines are marked by two streams.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
21 Apr 2014

Local orthodox pope Saba carries the Lelo ball to the church for blessing before the game starts. The pope is a former Greco-Roman wrestler who has played Lelo for three decades. He has been endowed with the upstanding privilege to bless the ball and throw it to the players for 13 years.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
21 Apr 2014

Easter celebration's dinner table. Before the game starts, villagers stuff the ball with earth, sand and wine during a ceremony. The "ball-stuffing morning" is punctuated with toasts, jokes and various discussions about the game and its strategies.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
20 Apr 2014

Men are only rivals during the game. There is one rigorous rule of honor during a Lelo game : no hitting. If some players get too excited and violent, they are promptly separated and placated.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
20 Apr 2014

The 16 kgs ball is carried to the church by Pope Saba to be blessed before the game starts. The pope is willing to give everyone a feel of what it’s like to carry such a ball. The ones who do catch it are hailed with applause, while the ones who trip or drop the ball are showered with laughter.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
20 Apr 2014

An injured player is being brought to a safe place. The game has no rules, no time-outs, and no limit to the number of men who can play. Only men are playing but women also take part to the festivities : they try to help their own teams by pinching and distracting men from the opposing part.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
20 Apr 2014

Players stuff the ball with earth, sand and wine. The leather ball must weight 16kg. The "ball-stuffing morning" is punctuated with toasts, jokes and various discussions about the game and its strategies.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
20 Apr 2014

Each year, the match begins exactly at 5 pm. There are no limits to the length of the match – it can range from two to eight hours. A villager with a riffle shot in the air to mark the start of the Lelo game.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
20 Apr 2014

An old Lelo ball is seen at one of the cemetery.
The team who wins dedicates the leather ball to the last deceased player and places it on his grave- a reflection of Georgian Orthodox Church tradition of visiting cemeteries on Easter to commemorate loved ones. Lelo balls in various stages of decomposition can be seen on graves in Shukhuti's cemeteries.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
20 Apr 2014

Noboody knows the exact time when people began playing Lelo. There are many versions based on different sources, but a number of pagan rituals involved in the game suggest it was played in Georgia long before the coming of Christianity. Lelo is believed to be the predecessor of rugby.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
20 Apr 2014

Players rest during the game.
Clothes of men turn to rags and shoes fly over the crowd. The cloud of dust keeps moving back and forth between the two streams for a couple of hours. If anyone falls on the ground, the nearby players put their hands in the air, a signal for the game to slow down. The injured players are carried to safe places.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
20 Apr 2014

The empty ball is stuff with earth, sand and wine. The stuffing ceremony will continue during the afternoon. The crowd toasts to wish luck and good health to the players : they drink wine from the ball itself, using it as a vessel. Everyone in the yard must drink from the Lelo burti ball to wish victory to the players and strength to the ball.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
20 Apr 2014

Once the ball is thrown in the game, the force of several hundred people explodes. Like a whirlwind, the players move in unpredictable directions destroying everything in their path. Some men ruthlessly fight for the ball on the field. Others watch the situation from a higher ground to prevent the opposing team from secretly smuggling the ball out of the field.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
20 Apr 2014

Shukhuti village is calm before the storm. Men from both parts of the village discuss strategies for the upcoming battle or spend their last quite hours of the day with their families.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
20 Apr 2014

The Burti ball is made on the eve of the Lelo. The honour is bestowed on the single local family, which has remained in the trade of shoemaking from centuries. On the festive morning, the empty ball is stuff with earth, sand and wine. It will continue during the afternoon. The crowd toasts to wish luck and good health to the players : they drink wine from the ball itself, using it as a vessel. Everyone in the yard must drink from the Lelo burti ball to wish victory to the players and strength to the ball.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
20 Apr 2014

The winning part of the village carries the ball.
They will carry it to the cemetery to place it on the grave of the last player who died. It's a reflection of Georgian Orthodox Church tradition of visiting cemeteries on Easter to commemorate loved ones.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
20 Apr 2014

Lelo is a male game but women also get to play their part. They do not fight for the ball, but try to help their teams by pinching and distracting men from the opposing team.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
20 Apr 2014

Once the ball is thrown in the game, the force of several hundred people explodes. Like a whirlwind, the players move in unpredictable directions destroying everything in their path. Some men ruthlessly fight for the ball on the field. Others watch the situation from a higher ground to prevent the opposing team from secretly smuggling the ball out of the field.
Two streams demarcate the battlefield and the aim is simple: whichever side is the first to carry the 16-kilogram leather ball back to their stream wins the game.

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Ancient tradition of Lelo
Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
20 Apr 2014

Teams are made up of inhabitants from the upper and lower halves of the village. The aim is simple: whichever side is the first to carry the 16-kilogram leather ball back to their creek wins the game.
The ball is thrown to the crowd by the pope in the carefully measured centre between the two creeks, and for several hours the approximately 150 meters field becomes a battlefield.