At the end of the rainy season in September, Wodaabe clans gather in several traditional locations before the beginning of their dry season migration. The best known of these is In-Gall’s Cure Salée salt market and Tuareg seasonal festival. Here the young Wodaabe men, with elaborate make-up, feathers and other adornments, perform the Yaake: dances and songs to impress marriageable women. The male beauty ideal of the Wodaabe stresses tallness, white eyes and teeth; the men will often roll their eyes and show their teeth to emphasize these characteristics. Wodaabe clans then join for the remainder of the week-long Gerewol: a series of barters over marriage and contests where the young men’s beauty and skills are judged by young women.
In preparation, the men spend hours applying make-up to highlight their facial gestures. A pale yellow powder applied to the entire face offers a beautiful and striking contrast to a man’s otherwise dark skin. Kohl drawn around the eyes and lips draws attention to their white, gnashing teeth and rolling eyes during the dance. A painted white line, which starts at the forehead and ends at the chin, serves to elongate the nose.
At a second dance called the gerewol (for which the festival is named), the men are judged purely on their physical beauty. For this dance, they shave their foreheads, paint their faces with red ochre (iron oxide), dress their hair with ostrich feathers and cowrie shells, and decorate their chests with criss-cross patterns of white beads.
A bride stays with her husband until she becomes pregnant after which she returns to her mother’s home, where she will remain for the next three to four years. She will deliver the baby at her mother’s home and then she becomes a boofeydo which literally means, “someone who has committed an error.”