Project Description

Arabian Bull Fight

Photographs by Leo James

These photographs of a traditional bull fight were taken in 2016 by Indian photographer Leo James, who is currently living in Dubai, in 2016, using 35mm film. Bullfighting’s roots can be traced to prehistoric bull worship and sacrifice in Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean region. There were several variants of bull fights – man vs bull and bull vs bull, and variants among them. The earliest surviving record of a bullfight is in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which describes a scene in which Gilgamesh and Enkidu fought and killed the Bull of Heaven. Bullfighting is often linked to Rome, where many human-versus-animal events were held as competition and for entertainment. These hunting games had spread to Africa, Europe, and Asia during the prehistoric era. Bull baiting became common among the Aayar or Yadava people who lived in the ‘Mullai’ geographical division of the ancient Tamil country. It gradually developed into a platform for display of bravery, and prizes were introduced for encouraging participation. A seal from the Indus Valley Civilization depicting the practice is preserved in the National Museum, New Delhi. A cave painting in white kaolin, discovered near Madurai, depicting a lone man trying to control a bull, is estimated to be about 2,500 years old. These images were shot in Fujairah, UAE. The origins of bullfighting in Arabia are unknown, though locals believe it was brought to Oman by the Moors who had conquered Spain. Its existence in Oman and the UAE is also attributed to Portugal which colonized the Omani coastline for nearly two centuries.

Bull Fight in Fujairah © Leo James 2015 / 35 mm film camera

Leo James was born and brought up in Kollam, Kerala. Having cultivated an interest in photography during his teenage, he completed a degree in Mass Communications, which had photography as a subject. He is currently working as a commercial photographer in Dubai.