Woodaabe men dancing in a line as part of the Gerewol festival in Niger.


In the Sahel desert of Niger, West Africa, the nomadic Wodaabe people often spend months apart, searching out pastures for their herds. But during years when the rains are good, the tribes have more time and an extraordinary beauty contest called Gerewol takes place… except it’s the men who are on parade and wearing the make-up.

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Woodaabe men dancing in a line as part of the Gerewol festival in Niger. Gerewol

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About Gerewol

The Guérewol (var. Guerewol, Gerewol) is an annual courtship ritual competition among the Wodaabe Fula people of Niger. Young men dressed in elaborate ornamentation and made up in traditional face painting gather in lines to dance and sing, vying for the attentions of marriageable young women. The Guérewol occurs each year as the traditionally nomadic Wodaabe cattle herders gather at the southern edge of the Sahara before dispersing south on their dry season pastures. The most famous gathering point is In-Gall in northwest Niger, where a large festival, market and series of clan meetings take place for both the Wodaabe and the pastoral Tuareg people. The actual dance event is called the Yaake, while other less famous elements—bartering over dowry, competitions or camel races among suitors—make up the week long Guérewol. The Guérewol is found wherever Wodaabe gather: from Niamey, to other places the Wodaabe travel in their transhumance cycle, as far afield as northern Cameroon and Nigeria

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