The Wodaabe are a proud nomadic people who are scattered across the sub-Saharan Sahelian steppe in
The Bororo tribe has attracted attention because of their traditional value of beauty. Dubbed as the inventors of beauty pageants, the Bororo consider themselves to be the most beautiful people in the world. Their long history of tradition, culture and values are the core of their lives. A nomadic people, the Bororo have been able to resist most colonialization, imperialism and modernism that is plaguing
The most important, rainy-season celebration among the Bororo happens weeks after the Worso celebrations. It is called Geerewol, and it is a celebration joining two lineages for seven days of dancing and celebration of beauty. Not only does it allow two lineages to join together in celebration, but the Geerewol provides an opportunity for young Bororo men and women to find attachments outside of their circle of cousins. The week-long celebration is centered around dance and beauty marathons. Two dances, the yaake and the geerewol, take precedence in the celebration, and it is these two dances that give the men a chance to show off their charm, beauty, and ability to attract women.
In the Bororo tradition, a man may have multiple wives. Many teegal marriages (marriages of love and romance, rather than an arranged marriage) are the outcome of these yearly celebrations. These teegal marriages often take the form of willing abductions, where both the man and the woman agree to flee, and often occur during the night after the charm competitions. Married women who are not happy with their current husbands are free to choose another man, but if she leaves her marriage, she must leave her children behind as well. If the new couple who have run away can slaughter a sheep, roast the meat and share the food before they are caught by the family (or husband) of the girl or woman, the marriage is confirmed.
The yaake, or charm competition, requires much preparation by the men. Men devote many hours before the yaake to make themselves beautiful. They apply extravagant facial make-up and wear elaborate clothes to show off their attractiveness. A pale yellow powder is heavily applied to the dancers face, and black kohl is applied to highlight the whiteness of the teeth and eyes. A line running from the forehead to the chin helps elongate the men’s nose, and many men shave their hairline to show off their forehead.
Once the men have prepared them-selves physically, they join together, shoulder to shoulder, and begin their dance. In a chorus line style, the men tiptoe forward to show off their height and display their charm by exaggerated facial expressions and sounds. Eyes roll, cheeks tremble, and teeth flash. Their cheeks inflate like a fish and then collapse again, and lips purse, part and tremble. A man will roll his right eye in and out, which is a talent that is highly recognized and valued. Meanwhile, elders of the group taunt the dancers, attempting to force them to try harder and show more of their magnetism. The men are being judged on their charm, magnetism and personality. It is not necessarily the most beautiful man that wins the yaake, but it is the one with the most “togu”, or magnetism and charm, that will emerge the victor.
The geerewol dance is the most rigorous and prestigious dance of the celebration, and only the most beautiful men take part. The men take the same delicate and lengthy preparations for the geerewol dance, but their appearance is different. The men wear the same dress: tight white wrappers bound at the knees, strings of white beads crisscrossing bare chests, and turbans of ostrich feathers and cowrie shells. Their faces are painted red, and they line up for two hours of frenzied dancing and chanting.
Those who feel that their competition is too great often voluntarily withdraw from the challenge. Those who remain eventually replace their ostrich feathers with horsetail plumes, signifying the next level of competition. The dancing becomes harder, more wild, and more intense. This is a beauty contest, and the judges are three unwed young women who have been chosen by the elders by their beauty. Concealing their judging eyes with their left hand, they nit-pick the dancers, looking for the most beautiful man. In turn, the men use every facial expression and body movement they can to attract the judges favor. The young women are looking for precise characteristics in the men: tall, lithe limbs with graceful movements, long, straight hair perfectly braided in a beautiful style, and light, smooth skin. A slender nose, thin lips, sparkling white eyeballs and teeth, and an elongated face are desirable. A high forehead, long fingers, large eyes and a long neck are ideal.
Once the young women have made their choice, they slowly creep toward the dancers. The most beautiful men are chosen with a graceful swing of the arm. The winners receive an increased pride in themselves as well as the admiration of other men and women.
Location: Nothern Nigeria, South Western Niger
Language: Fulbe languages
Types of Art: Wodaabe weave and dye beautiful cloth that is considered extremely valuable throughout western Africa.
Economy: Wodaabe are mainly nomadic herders and traders. The routes they established in western Africa provided extensive links throughout the region that fostered economic and political ties between otherwise isolated ethnic groups. Dairy products produced from cattle were traded to sedentary farmers for agricultural products and luxury items. These items could then be traded to trans-Saharan traders such as the Tuareg for shipment north. Fine woven cloth produced by the Wodaabe was considered a luxury item that could be traded on the international market.
Political Systems: The two most significant factors in Fulani political systems are clientage and competition. In order to gain political office a Fulani man would have to compete among his fellows for the right to rule. He could show his political favor by demonstrating that he had a large following in the form of individuals and families. By agreeing to become the client of a powerful man or family, a subject would offer tribute in the form of gifts and political support in exchange for security. Wodaabe men often held considerable political power within their own nomadic communities, as well as within the communities in which they settled in northern Nigeria.
Religion: Wodaabe religion is largely Islamic. Although there are varying degrees of orthodoxy exhibited, most adhere to at least some of the basic requirements of the religion. It is usually the case that the wealthy and powerful are among the most religious, while those who have fewer resources are less likely to strictly observe their religion.