Gerewol Festival, Niger – A dance that changes lives

Gerewol Festival - Wodaabe Dance

Gerewol Festival – Wodaabe Dance

This celebration by the Wodaabe tribe is the biggest Nomadic celebration in West Africa.

Gerewol is held annually in September, at the end of the rainy season. The Gerewol Festival, held around the small town of In-Gall in Northwest Niger, marks the end of the rainy season and the beginning of the tribes’ journey to their dry season pastures. The week-long celebration is marked by male the suitors dancing the Yaake to impress marriageable females and their family members, bartering over dowry and various competitions including camel races among suitors.

On the day of Gerewol, at sunrise, a woman sings out in the Wodaabe encampment, marking the commencement of the festival. The song is sung to encourage the young to rise in readiness for the day’s activities: “The morning star has arisen! Beautiful girls! Handsome boys! Get up before the day begins!”

Gerewol Festival - Painted faces of the mariage candidates

Gerewol Festival – Painted faces of the mariage candidates

A dance that changes lives

In preparation, the men spend hours applying make-up to highlight their facial features. A pale yellow powder applied to the entire face offers a beautiful and striking contrast to a man’s otherwise dark skin. Kohl drawn around the eyes and lips draws attention to their white, teeth and rolling eyes during the dance. A painted white line, which starts at the forehead and ends at the chin, serves to elongate the nose. The young men gather in formation to dance and sing; vying for the attention of marriageable young women while performing the Yaake.

Young Wodaabe women

Young Wodaabe women

At the second dance, called the gerewol (for which the festival is named), the men are judged purely on their physical beauty. With shaved foreheads and faces painted with red ochre, hair styled with ostrich feathers and cowrie shells, and decorated chests with criss-cross patterns of white beads, they are ready for the Gerewol. This event stresses the ideal of Wodaabe male beauty, height and whiteness of the eyes and teeth. The young men will often roll their eyes and show their teeth to display these favorable characteristics.This enthusiastic display of group singing is accompanied by clapping and stomping with bells. The Wodaabe Gerewol festival is a demonstration of hypnotizing, repetitious and percussive choral tradition.

These young men will continue dancing for a seven-day period in the blistering Saharan sun to prove their stamina and attractiveness to the marriageable young women judging the competition.

Those that fail to attract a wife will surely be back for the next year’s Gerewol Festival.

Northen Niger, In-Gall region - Gerewol Festival

Northen Niger, In-Gall region – Gerewol Festival

Mozaic - Comentarii si treceri in revista

Idrija – where lace and mercury weave their unique story (II)

The town of Idrija is situated in the north-western parts of Slovenia on the crossing of the Alpine country and Karst. It is considered to be one of the oldest Slovenian towns, whose history is inseparably linked with a five hundred years of mercury extraction. The town visit will show you exceptional richies of the […]

Follow us: