Gerewol Festival

Gerewol festival is an annual courtship ritual competition among the Wodaabe Fula people of Niger.

[Photo Credit: See Africa Today]

This is the largest and most important festival of the Wodaabe people. Also spelled Guerewol, this festival is done at the end of the raining season in September. The festival is also done in Chad, but it is more popular in Niger.

To commence, the Wodaabe people travel to In-Gall- a town in the Agadez region of Northeast Niger, known for its oasis and salt flats- where series of events takes place in preparation for the festival.

During the festival, young men garbed in intricate ornaments and made up in traditional face painting gather in line to dance and sing, contending for the attention of maidens. The week-long festival has an actual dance event called Yaake, while other activities in the festival includes bargaining over dowry, competitions and camel racing among suitors.

The festival is mostly a male only beauty contest where the young men’s beauty is judged by the young women. The Wodaabe ideal male beauty is tallness, white eyes and teeth, perhaps this is why the men bare their teeth and roll their eyes during the contest.

The Gerewol festival is also characterized by group singing accompanied by clapping, stomping and bells. The men dance in a hypnotic manner, with their arms linked together while rising and falling on their toes.

Although the attention is on the men, the women also take the time to adorn themselves. The young women will observe the long line of dancers with a poker-face, according to the culture, and tap their chosen man amidst cheers from the crowd.

Afterwards, the women will return to their encampment to wait and if the chosen man likes them as well, he will follow.


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Written by Monsurat

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