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The snapshots of photographer Abbas from the Magnum agency mingle with drawings by Rafael Ortiz, all scripted by Jean-David Morvan in an album that tells the story of the legendary duel between Mohamed Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa in 1974.
It is the story of a boxing fight that marked the twentieth century and that has been told on several occasions through books or documentaries, such as When We Were King by Leon Gast who remains a reference, or even The Greatest the William Klein.
This time, the confrontation between Mohamed Ali and George Foreman, in a symbolic place, Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC (at the time Zaire) in October 1974, is told with the photographs of Abbas (1944-2018), rare reporter of images of the time to have been accredited. The photographic report mixes with the drawings of Rafael Ortiz, all scripted by Jean-David Morvan.
Explain photography through comics
« The concept of photography and comics works well. Through comics, we can explain how an image is made. Abbas’s photographs allow new forms of storytelling and different layouts », Explains Jean-David Morvan to RFI. This time it is Abbas’s keen eye that allows for another reading.
« There is an interesting force in mixing a still image with moving images. And Abbas liked the project and supported it from the start. I found Abbas’s testimony to be very strong. I love boxing, but it’s not a passion. I especially wanted to tell an era and the state of the world at the time », Comments Jean-David Morvan. He adds : ” I also like the idea of showing how photography is useful to society. There is for me an emotion which emerges from the still image, it is very powerful. I love the shock of the photos. Through my books, I want to explain how this difficult profession of photographer works. »
A dive into the atmosphere of Mobutu’s Zaire
Abbas, born in Iran and who lived in Algeria, hero of the book, covered the greatest events of the twentieth century such as the Vietnam War or the Iranian revolution. Mohamed Ali, Kinshasa 1974 is the fourth volume in a collection launched by Magnum Photos and Aire libre. In this one, there is in particular NY September 11, 2001, with the images of the American Steve McCurry.
This graphic novel therefore plunges the reader back into the atmosphere of Mobutu’s Zaire. In 1974, George Foreman, 24, was a puncher. He wants to continue fighting. In the middle of the night, Mohamed Ali finally took back his world heavyweight title from his young compatriot, in front of nearly 100,000 spectators who were committed to his cause, on the banks of the Congo River.
At the time, Cassius Clay, alias Mohamed Ali, was 32 years old and not what he was. But facing the mountain of Foreman muscles, Ali goes ” dance in the ring »Thanks to his incomparable pugilistic art. George Foreman, holder of the WBA and WBC world champion’s belts for a year and a half and his victory against Joe Frazier, loses in the 8th round of a tactical fight. Mohamed Ali uses the strategy of tiring his opponent for seven rounds to knock him out in the eighth.
« I had never received so much encouragement »
« I loved the Zairians and they gave it back to me. I had never received so much encouragement and expressions of affection. People lined up in the streets to see me, and I liked to mingle with them, to hear them tell me their stories. I spent a lot of time with them because we respected each other. And I know it pissed Foreman off to see that I was the champion of the people halfway around the world », Told Mohamed Ali in his autobiography Butterfly Soul (Presses du Châtelet editions). ” Ali, bomaye! » (« Ali, kill him! In Lingala), chanted the fans at each appearance of Mohamed Ali.
This fascinating graphic novel, a true cross between documentaries, photostories and comics, looks back on this mythical fight which has fascinated us again and again for 46 years. And it allows at the same time to pay a strong tribute to Abbas, a reference in photojournalism.
Mohamed Ali, Kinshasa 1974, Outdoors, € 24.95