As opposed to the general practice in most African cultures where the woman gets to do pageantry, and the men get to choose their wives. The wodaabe tribe of the Fulani has a cultural practice where the men play the display, and the women get to pick their husbands. Interesting, right?
The Fulani ethnic group is one of the prevalent ethnic groups in Africa, popularly known for its inability to settle one place. They are living in many parts of western Africa. Nigeria, Chad, Senegal, Niger, and Sudan. They are the nomadic cattle rearers, always in the move in search of greener pastures. The wodaabe tribe is one of the subgroups of the Fulani, and wodaabe translates as “people of the taboo.” Wodaabe man wakes up on the Sahel desert, with his shelter and his castles and donkeys as possessions.
It will be useful to let you know that at the end of September, immediately after the rainy season, the clans of the traditional wodaabe tribes come together to celebrate the Guerewol festival, which is the most famous of all their cultural practices. The Guerewol, which can also be called Gerewol, is an annual ritual for courtship, amongst the wodaabe Fulani people of Niger. The young men get dressed in their best, elaborate ornaments, and traditional paintings to make themselves very attractive. They gather together to dance, smiling, and trying to gain attention from marriageable women. It’s also the time they socialize and hold tribal meetings, baptize babies, and barter dowries. It’s time they help themselves if help is needed, which makes up a week-long of festivities but above all the young men getting married is the main event of the Guerewol.
They gather together in this desert with their basic home. A shelter, a wooden bed, and their cattle around their home. The whole family sleeps together. They feed on milk and Millet mostly. The men during this festival drink tea, which is one of their rituals. The teas are said to be fermented bark and help them dance for long.
In the wodaabe tribe, a young woman’s Virginity is not a significant concern, so they don’t see and define Virginity like every other African tribe. The flirtation from the dance might lead to marriage and might also lead to just a night of love, or might end at playful flirtation. Even if it does end at just a night of love, since the Virginity of a woman is not of major concern, there’s no social stigma attached, whatsoever.
Even though most of them have been pledged to each other at births, their polygamous nature still permits them to temporarily hook up and marry twice or thrice, mostly for the purpose of beauty. Beauty is highly valued; a married man who is not really handsome might encourage his wife to pick a handsome man for the purpose of giving birth to a more beautiful child.
In the afternoon of this day, the men gather and take a long time applying makeup; it could be yellow-colored makeup, which means joy or red, which signifies power and strength and makes beautiful dots on their faces. Trying their best to paint their lips black to expose their white teethes and make black contours around their eyes to expose their eyes, which is the two elements the women find most desirable. They get dressed up in very colourful outfits, and their hairs plaited by either their mothers or sisters. The women gather in small groups and admire them from afar while waiting for the full package to be unveiled when the festival starts. There are so many things to consider outside just the physical appearance of these men, their qualities as depicted by the colours. The women are dressed in far more modest clothes, wear earrings, and making paintings and drawings on their faces to ward off evil spirits.
A lineup of the young men assembles in the field, as they dance and chant, standing on their toes to be as tall as possible, ringing the bells on their ankles. The women and the elders gather. The elders are cheering them while the women observe. That awkward but most anticipated moment comes, and a woman makes a move, it creates suspense and makes the crowd come close to see who she is going to pick. She goes to the line and touch who she wants why she immediately retreats. The men are supposed to keep dancing and act like they are not aware of what happens around them.
Once the festival ends, they all disperse for another year of roaming the savanna.
African culture is beautiful and unique.