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The Mystery behind Gerewol; the Wodaabe Wife Stealing Festival

Every year the Wodaabe tribe in Niger, West Africa holds the Gerewol festival.  In this ceremony, men wear carefully done makeup, dress elaborately and hold a beauty pageant of some sort in an effort to impress the wives of other men.

The Wodaabe tribe believes that they are the best looking people on earth. The men in this tribe are always walking with a mirror. During the Gerewol festival the men engage in a mating dance in the hope of stealing another man’s wife. Women of Wodaabe tribe are allowed to have sex with whoever they want before marriage and can also have numerous husbands. 

Before the ceremony begins the men are given ample time to prepare and be in the best version of themselves. They paint their faces with red clay, wear a shade of lipstick to make their teeth whiter and use eyeliners to whiten their eyes. The participating men also wear ostrich feathers in their hair to make them appear taller. 

On the D-day three of the most beautiful women in the tribe are chosen as judges and the participating men are supposed to display their act through dance as they move in circles. Each of the female judges gets to choose her own winner who at the end of the day gets acclaim and a chance to choose a woman of his choice for a wife. 

The other women in the tribe, mostly in need of a second husband, watch on as they admire the men. If one likes a certain man in the said group they choose to be ‘stolen’ by them. To do this the woman taps her favorite man on the shoulder.  In case the man manages to steal her without getting caught he immediately becomes her husband and the union is sealed there and then. 

 If a husband is fearful that his wife will be stolen from him he has a choice to deny her from attending the festival. 

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