Understanding the Wodaabe tribe
The Wodaabe are a nomadic sexually liberated polygamous/polyamorous tribe who allow the tribe’s women to have sexual intercourse with whoever they want before they are married. The women are also allowed to have numerous husbands. Women have all the power when it comes to intimacy.
Women who attend the Wodaabe festival may or may not be married, but they come in search of their next husband. Each female present gets to choose her own winner and escape with him.
First marriages are traditionally arranged by families while parties are still children. This marriage is called Koogal.
According to the Daily Mail, ” A bride stays with her husband until she becomes pregnant, after which goes to live with her mother. She delivers the baby at her mother’s home when she becomes a ‘boofeydo’, which literally means ‘someone who has committed an error’. While she is boofeydo, she is not allowed to have any contact with her husband, and he is not allowed to express any interest in either her or the child. After two to three years, she is permitted to visit her husband, but it is still taboo that she should live with him or bring the child with her; this only becomes permissible when her mother has managed to purchase all the items that are necessary for her home. But by then the woman maybe ready for her second marriage…”
This second marriage might be due to love and attraction — probably from the Gerewol — and it is called Teegal.
The Gerewol festival
The Gerewol is a seven-night festival which occurs at the end of the rainy season in September and it’s a time for the tribe to relax after months of travelling across the Sahel desert.
Where the festival will hold is hidden till days before the event. Though a time for music and dance, the main attractions of festival are the beauty pageant and mating dance contest, Yaake.
The men, while in makeup and dresses, are judged by the women of the tribe who may take any of them as a mate as she pleases.
The men spend as long as six hours preparing their faces for the festival. They believe bright eyes, white teeth and a sharp nose are the attributes that make a man beautiful so the make up enhances these features — red clay as foundation, white stripe to make the nose look sharper, and black eyeliner and lipstick to highlight their white teeth and eyes. White ostrich feathers are placed in their hair to make them appear taller and pull the look together. They bare their eyes and teeth at the festival.
Yaake is a mating call for men to battle it out for sexual supremacy — for the chance to be regarded as a sex god.
The main judges of the dance are three of the tribe’s most beautiful women whose fathers have won the Yaake in the past. However, women from all over the tribe still attend to find new husbands. A woman with an ugly husband would want to escape her marriage and find a more good-looking mate. Sometimes, a husband might stop his wife from going to the Gerewol.
If the new couple is able to run away undetected, society recognises their marriage from then on.
One man proudly revealed to the Daily Mail that he had stolen 30 wives in his life: “You know, stealing wives is not an easy thing. Only the Wodaabe know! You steal a woman from others and she will give sons to your lineage, even grandsons. Only the Wodaabe know how to do that.”