Skip to main content

Guérewol - the Festival of Celebrating Beauty

— by Parmita Borah | Bangalore
Gerewol (photo - Dan Lundberg)
Bid your adieus to Mr. Universe, Gladrags Super Models, Manhunts and Valentine’s Day. Gear up for an 'old school dating service' that surpasses these consumerism driven amorous galas. In what can be either defined as a celebration of beauty or a courtship ritual - Wodaabe people of Niger (a landlocked country in Western Africa) have an annual competition called Guérewol where young men in their finest attires and behaviors vie for the brownie points of three gorgeous ladies. Sounds like American Idol? Well, in a way it is minus the Coke/Pepsi tumblers and Simon; you can expect a couple of Paula’s and Jennifer Lopez’s though.
The Contest
Guérewol (photo - Dan Lundberg)
So what is Guérewol? In brief, it’s an African version of the 'Indian Swayamvara', (excluding the part where the bride is bound together for life, these guys keep their options open). Celebrated right after the rainy season, the festival has three ladies sit down together to crown a man for his sex appeal and grace. The competition cannot be rigged since the festival is an inter-clan affair and women of two separate lineages judge the beauty of the men from opposite clans. On the day of Guerewol, as the sun rises, 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 dancing ahead: “The morning star has arisen! Beautiful girls! Handsome boys! Get up before the day begins!”
Wodaabe women, like their men, lean and tall; biceps, triceps, nice legs and six pack abs are equally important. The ideal man’s facial features should be symmetrical, his eyes large and round, his nose fine and long and his teeth white and even. (Surgery is usually not a option as the Wodaabe women don’t have much of a like for anything plastic). The dude must also have a sense of style that appeals to the women and last but not the least, his stamina should be beyond comparison. The enthusiastic men are judged based on these criteria in the Gerewol festival; the lucky man that meets all these criteria walks away with the charm of three lovely ladies.
The Talent Round
With “Grace” being an important criterion for the contest, the participants must be good at shaking their legs too. Yaake - the principal competitive dance round is intended to allow the contestants to exhibit their overall physical presence, their poise and sense of rhythm, and the particular beauty of their facial features. As a spectacle, it is a cross between opera, ballet and a drag show, performed without props in the middle of a semi-desert.
Behind the Scenes
Guérewol festival (photo - Dan Lundberg)
Preparations for the Yaake dance are meticulous and a community affair. Both the foundation and the lipstick worn at the festival are composed of rare ingredients that are considered to have magical properties. Men also shave their hairline to elongate their foreheads.

With the hair and make up done, the participants tie amulet bags, necklaces and crosses around their necks, then dress in tunics that hang to their ankles. They wear white turbans with ostrich feathers on their heads. The overall attire may seem traditional, but Woodabe women never fail to appreciate a little creativity or fusion. So don’t be surprised if you notice zips in their embroidery, or men wearing plastic watches on their necklaces. Before lining up for a Yaake, the young men drink a cocktail containing a psychoactive bark that assists them in putting on their best face, making their most elegant moves, and staying on their feet all night.
The Jury
While they wear less make-up than the boys, Wodaabe girls adorn themselves with equal care. They wear beaded necklaces and amulet bags around their neck and colored bracelets on their wrists, large hoops of silver or gold in their ears. The traditionalists have thick brass bangles around their ankles, intended to give them a “cow-like” step — a prized virtue in their cattle culture.Devoid of any hypocrisy, Guérewol is a fun filled festival which allows young men and women to mingle, flirt and possibly find a partner. There is no pretence of scouting for talent or any room for moral policing.


Popular posts from this blog

10 music fests in North East India you don't want to miss

— compiled by Debjani Hazarika Northeast India is known as the land of festivals and culture. From the beginning, people of this part of the world have been indulging in merriment and diversion. Hence, the music, dance and other forms of art are the integral parts of everyday life. Apart from traditional festivals, since the commencement of television and social media, many young enthusiasts came up with the idea of organising different music events and festivals where local and acclaimed musicians can showcase their talents. Some of the festivals are funded by the state governments while the rest organised with the help of private sponsorship. Here is a list of some of the music and cultural fests we thought you would love to attend if you are into music and adventure. Hornbill Festival (Nagaland) Hornbill Festival 2012, Nagaland (photo: Sudeepta Barua) WHAT? Hornbill Festival WHEN? December WHERE? Naga Heritage Village, Kohima, Nagaland The Hornbill Festival is a celebra

16 Rock Bands from North-East India you don't want to miss

North-East India is very rich in music, dance, tradition and culture. All the eight states of North-East India have something to offer for rock music lovers. Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, is also known as 'Rock Capital of India'. Some of the festivals promoting rock music of the region like Hornbill Festival of Nagaland and Ziro Festival of Music in Arunachal Pradesh are quite famous among music lovers. The region gave birth to many well known and respected Rock bands since the 60's. We have compiled a list of 16 (sixteen) comparatively new bands we love listening to all the time. Of course, there are various other bands apart from these sixteen bands who have made their mark on the Rock music scenario of India. We will post about those bands in our next segment. The Vinyl Records (Arunachal Pradesh) | photo: Facebook The Vinyl Records (Arunachal Pradesh) - Formed in February 2010, The Vinyl Records is an All-girl Rock band. They have performed in well

Healing power of music: Binaural Beats sound for cough relief | music therapy & meditation

A cough is a common reflex action that clears the throat of mucus or foreign irritants. A cough that lasts between 3 and 8 weeks, improving by the end of that period, is a subacute cough. A persistent cough that lasts more than eight weeks is a chronic cough. There are various ways to treat cough and other lungs and throat problems. From allopathy to homeopathy, from ayurvedic treatment to alternate medicines. Today, we are going to discuss about another unique way to treat the general irritation of the throat. Please note, prescribed medications from a doctor needs to be continued while taking this treatment. We are going to talk about sound waves which can give relief to a patient who is undergoing treatment for cough. People who have general cough and cold problem due to change of weather can get rid of cough and irritation in no time. We will be using binaural beats therapy to treat our cough problem. If you are having a sore throat or a regular throat irritation, plea