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Salt Cure

One of the most important festivals in West Africa is celebration Cure Salée (Salt Cure). It's held annually and each Nomad ethnic group has its own celebration. The biggest celebration you can see at Wodaabé (Bororo) tribe, held in September around small town In-Gall, in North-east Niger. The festival takes about a week, but two days are major. The exact date is not known, it's changing every year and it's announced approximately one month before in depending on rains strength.

When the Fulani migrated to West Africa centuries ago, those who remained nomads called themselves 'Wodaabé' ('people of the taboo'), meaning those who adhere to the traditional code of the Fulani. The sedentary Fulani's description of their itinerant cousins was less complimentary: 'Bororo', a name derived from their cattle and insinuating something like 'those who live in the bush and do not wash'.

During the year Wodaabé people are spread around almost all West African fields. As cattle need salt to remain healthy, the nomads converge on the In-Gall area (know for its high salt content) at the height of the rainy season, when the grass can support large herds. During the Cure Salée, you'll see men on camels trying to keep their livestock in order and racing across the plains.

The festival is a big social and cultural event. The old friends can meet, men are searching for their wives, people are chatting about the news.

Wodaabé men and women believe they are very attractive. The beauty is very important for them. The most important for the parents is to have pretty child. In some cases a man who is not so pretty has to share his wife with another more beautiful man, so the probability a pretty child is born is higher. Wodaabé women are indeed care about their beauty and surprisingly they have sexual freedom before the marriage.

Wodaabé join the Cure Salée celebration with their own festival Gerewol called after their traditional dance. The right time to attract woman is a beauty contest. The main event is the Yaake, a late-afternoon performance when the men dance, displaying their beauty, charisma and charm. In preparation, they spend hours decorating themselves in front of small hand mirrors. They then form a long line, dressed to the hilt with blackended lips (to make the teeth seem whiter), lightened faces, white streaks down their foreheads and noses, star-like figures painted on their faces, braided hair, elaborate headwear, anklets, jewellery, beads and shiny objects. All are hoping to emphasise the qualities the women desire: lean bodies, long slender noses, white even teeth, and bright eyes.

It's a quite strange and different dance we are get used to. Men are dancing in a row, wobbling, rolling eyes and showing the teeth. Before the dance they usually take a stimulant drink, so they can dance for hours. It's not rare to see men dancing the whole night. Some of them are in ecstasy and need help from the others. Men beauty is scored according to their dance. Women are watching carefully and quietly selection their husbands. If the merry offer is accepted by man, he has to give a calabash of milk to her parents. If they accept it, he has to pay with three cows for the wedding celebration.