Unique Faces Of Gerewol Festival. The Wodaabe are a subgroup of the Fulani ethnic group. The Fulani which goes by a number of names is one of the largest ethnic groups found in West Africa and the Sahel. The Fulani number approximately 60 million. The Wodaabe on the other hand only number 100,000 across Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, CAR, and DRC. The Wodaabe are historically nomadic cattle-herders and traders
Woda can be translated as “those who respect taboos” referring to the Wodaabe’s isolation from the broader Fulani group and the Wodaabe’s commitment to tradition. The Wodaabe herd long-horned Zebu cattle and follow the rain from south to north from June through September. A group is comprised of several dozen relatives. The Wodaabe follow the Islamic faith and began to convert in the 17th century.
I stayed five days with some Wodaabe in southern Chad at the end of the rainy season in early October. I attended the Gerewol Festival. You can read about my experience of Visiting Gerewol Festival. The Gerewol Festival is a matchmaking opportunity for these nomadic herders. The tables are turned as eligible men dance and sing to attract potential mates. Beauty is valued by the whiteness of their eyes and teeth as well as height. The men perform the Yaake (dances) while being elaborately dressed and made up.
Spending so much time with the Wodaabe at the Gerewol Festival allowed me ample opportunity to capture the unique faces of Gerewol Festival. Unique Faces Of Gerewol Festival.
Most of the Wodaabe have their faces tattooed. Razors are used to cut their faces with charcoal to mark the site. The modifications take place at a young age. Differing subgroups of the Wodaabe have different patterns on their faces.
In general, the men were much more open about having their photos taken. The women on the other hand were much more reticent about having their photos taken. Older women often declined while the younger women and girls required more effort.
The men work hard to impress the women. They spend all day in the searing heat prepping and primping to get ready. The men wear extensive make up and don colorful outfits adorned by trinkets and jewelry.
Starting in the afternoon and sometimes lasting into the next morning, the men sing and dance incessantly. The idea is to catch the attention of an eligible lady. The women approach the line of men and are able to point to their favorite.
The kids sometimes stole the show. These young children would imitate their older brethren and join in for the performance.
My muse, Ikey. I met Ikey and my camera was immediately attracted. I ran into Ikey a number of times during my stay visiting the Wodaabe. I was always more happy to see him than vice versa.
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