In a continent with 54 countries and over 3000 tribes, there’s bound to be a lot of culture and Africa is no different.
One of such tribes is the Wodaabe people. They are a small, isolated branch of the Fulani ethnic group and are considered by neighboring tribes as wild, uncivilized people, labelled as Mbororo, or ‘cattle Fulani’ – those who dwell in cattle camps. The Wodaabe people stretch through southern Niger, through northern Nigeria, northeastern Cameroon, southwestern Chad, the western region of the Central African Republic and the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This group of nomads place a great emphasis on beauty and unlike most other cultures, it is the men in the tribe that take up the responsibility. Known to always carry mirrors around, the Wodaabe men believe they’re the most handsome set of men. This belief leads to the men investing large amounts of money, time and effort into beautifying themselves.
Every year, the tribe holds the Gerewol festival. During this festival, the men of the tribe dress up and wear heavy makeup, dance and sing in a bid to attract the attention of the eligible women of the tribe. The wodaabe people believe that beauty can be judged by the whiteness of the eye, the firm straight bridge of the nose and white teeth. Therefore, during the Gerewol festival, the men make sure that their makeup helps show these facial features.
They paint their faces with red clay, use eyeliners to make their eyes appear whiter, and wear a shade of lipstick that will make their teeth appear whiter. They also wear white ostrich feathers in their hair making them appear taller.
The festival is basically a beauty contest.
A dance show is the final part of the festival and it has also become a huge tourist attraction. The men with their full face of makeup and their extravagant outfits stand in a straight line as the women pick who they are interested in. You might not get a wife on the night of the Gerewol festival, but you might get lucky.
The men line up after the dancing while three women chosen by the male tribal elders judge them. The women walk along the line, displaying no emotion as that’s one of the rules of the tribe. Each of them picks their favorite man to loud applause and congratulations. The women then walk back to their camps and wait and if the chosen men are interested, they follow.
The next day, after the week long festival is done the tribe packs up and returns to their nomadic life. For those that decide to continue as a couple, the marriage ritual will begin.
All this till the next festival rolls around.