The Cure Salee festival, an annual gathering of the nomadic Wodaabe tribe, marks the end of the rainy season close to the town of Ingall. The Gerewol, a male beauty pageant where young men from the tribe don elaborate costumes and makeup and perform traditional dances, is the festival’s most well-known feature. During this traditional wooing process, many pairings are made as they compete for the approval of female judges. In addition to camel races, livestock parades, and eating are all part of the week-long event.
The In-Gall region, noted for its high salt content, attracts nomads during the height of the rainy season when the grass can support big herds since cattle need salt to keep healthy. Men riding camels can be seen attempting to manage their livestock and rushing over the plains during the Cure Salée.
The main purposes of the gathering are for socializing and courting the other sex. The Gerewol festival, when bachelors compete in a “beauty contest” to attract attractive women, is the most obvious illustration of this. Both men and women of the Wodaabé tribe have long, graceful faces and consider themselves to be exceptionally beautiful. They place such a high value on having pretty children that ugly guys have their women mate with more handsome men in order to produce children who appear better.
The Yaake, a late-afternoon performance where the guys dance and show off their beauty, charisma, and charm, is the primary event. They spend hours primping in front of tiny hand mirrors before the event. They then line up in a long line, fully adorned with braided hair, extravagant headdress, anklets, jewelry, beads, and shiny objects. They have darkened lips (to make their teeth appear whiter), lightened faces, white streaks down their foreheads and noses, and painted stars on their faces. All are attempting to highlight the characteristics that women value: long, slim noses, white, even teeth, and brilliant eyes.
Drinking stimulants, the males dance for hours until the women hesitantly make their decisions. Suitor competition can be tough. The young guys participate in the Soro, where they stand smirking while others attempt to topple them with enormous sticks to display their virility.
If the woman accepts, the man delivers a calabash of milk to her parents. If they agree, he delivers the bridal price of three animals, which are killed for the celebrations that follow.
The festival’s sponsorship by the Niger government dates back to the 1990s. Its three-day duration is set each year on September 11 and is accompanied by the arrival of dignitaries and performers.