Category: The Cure Salee

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The Cure Salee, Festival of the Nomads

Gerewol is an annual courtship ritual competition among the Wodaabe Fula people of Niger. Young men dressed in elaborate ornamentation and made up in traditional face painting gather in lines to dance and sing, vying for the attentions of marriageable young women. The Guérewol occurs each year as the traditionally nomadic Wodaabe cattle herders gather at the southern edge of the Sahara before dispersing south on their dry season pastures. The most famous gathering point is In-Gall in northwest Niger, where a large festival, market and series of clan meetings take place for both the Wodaabe and the pastoral Tuareg people. The actual dance event is called the Yaake, while other less famous elements—bartering over dowry, competitions or camel races among suitors—make up the week-long Guérewol. The Guérewol is found wherever Wodaabe gather: from Niamey, to other places the Wodaabe travel in their transhumance cycle, as far afield as northern Cameroon and Nigeria. Wodaabe, or Bororo, are a small subgroup of the Fulani ethnic group. They are traditionally nomadic cattle-herders and traders in the Sahel, with migrations stretching from southern Niger, through northern Nigeria, northeastern Cameroon, southwestern Chad, and the western region of the Central African Republic. The number of Wodaabe was estimated in 2001 to be 100,000. They are known for their beauty (both men and women), elaborate attire and rich cultural ceremonies. Here the young Wodaabe men, with elaborate make-up, feathers and other adornments, perform the Yaake: dances and songs to impress marriageable women. The male beauty ideal of the Wodaabe stresses tallness, white eyes and teeth; the men will often roll their eyes and show their teeth to emphasize these characteristics. Wodaabe clans then join for the remainder of the week-long Gerewol: a series of barters over marriage and contests where the young men’s beauty and skills are judged by young women.