Why Do Wodaabe Men Wear Makeup?

In the current world, it would be seen as a woman’s duty to beautify herself to make herself attractive to a man. However, this is not the case in the Wodaabe community as it is the men who beautify themselves to be chosen by the ladies. The Wodaabe is a nomadic group of people who occupy the Sahel region from Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

The Wodaabe men wear makeup so that they can look stunning and appealing to the women. In this community, it is the women who choose the men they would wish to associate with.

Woodabe Men  During a Marriage Ritual
Woodabe Men During a Marriage Ritual

It is very unusual to see a man carrying a mirror everywhere he goes so that he can regularly check his face. This is actually what happens in Wodaabe. Very early in the morning before taking the cattle out to feed, the men first apply their makeup and check themselves just in case they find a suitor on the way.

What Kind Of Marriage Do The Wodaabe Have?

The Wodaabe practice polygamous marriage whereby a man can have as many sexual partners as he wants.

A Wodaabe person enters marriage at a young age. At this time, it is the parents who arrange how the marriage is going to be. Monogamy is highly discouraged in the Woodabe community. A man or woman has no restrictions on the number of lovers they can have. Despite this freedom, the laws of the land clearly outline that one can only have one lover at a specific time. 

Moreover, there is also a beauty competition in the Wodaabe community specifically for men. The competition is also called the Gerewol fertility festival. Here the men compete in front of women judges who make the final decision on who is the best. The men spend long hours each day just to make them look more attractive. To make them look more charming, the men cut off all the hair in the front part of their heads and the rest of the hair which is plaited is decorated with shells. Apart from applying cosmetics to their eyes to make them more noticeable, the Wodaabe apply ochre to their skin to beautify themselves.

The men try their best to outdo each other. After all, the female judges then pick the best dancer. The female judge gets to gave sexual intercourse with the best of the male dancers. If their love blossoms the woman may leave her husband and live with the man she has met as it is accepted by the community.

What Purpose Does Marriage Serve?

Lady Choosing During Marriage Ceremony
Lady Choosing During Marriage Ceremony

Marriage in the Wodaabe community is polygamous and is highly accepted. Marriage starts at a young age and women are not limited in the number of lovers they can have before marriage. The men compete at the Gerewol beauty competition whereby they beautify themselves so that they may be appealing to the women. Although the women may be having their husbands back at home they normally opt to come to this festival and look for new suitors who will also be their husbands. The men of this community mainly steal each other’s wives. However, there are some men who for the fear of their wives being stolen, they forbid their wives from taking part in the festival.

When a woman finds a lover during the Gerewol festival and they get married, she can break her previous marriage. In short, in this community, marriages in this community can easily be ended completely and new marriages established. In the case of the preceding marriage, the woman had children, the children are left with the man to take care of them.

How Is Wodaabe Masculinity Defined?

In wodaabe masculinity is mostly associated with beauty. Masculinity also comes with its responsibilities at hand. The men should put extra effort into emphasizing their beauty if they want to be loved by the women. The men will therefore spend a lot of time trying to make themselves look charming to the women.

Masculinity for the Wodaae also entails survival for the fittest. The men normally compete in the Gerewol festival where they try their best to attract women. The lucky men get more suitors while some may not even get lovers. When it comes to matters relating to sex, it is women who normally control everything. The man’s role is only to do his best for the lady. Otherwise, it is the woman who decides whom she is to have as her lover and the one she is to leave alone.

What Do The Wodaabe Think Is Beautiful For A Man?

The men spend many days trying to improve their appearance and making themselves more beautiful so that they can attract more ladies. A wodaabe man should be towering and well built. Any woman would fall for a man with these qualities. Such a man is especially favored in the dancing competition where he can jump higher. A man who is a skilled dancer in this community is highly adored. The men usually go to the Gerewol festival where they outdo each other with their dancing moves to win ladies’ hearts. The most skilled man easily gets spotted by ladies. The facial appearance of a man is also very important. An ideal man is regarded to be the one with a prominent nose, a small face and large eyes. The men apply red ochre to their faces to be more attractive to the women. As for the face and the nose, they are normally stripped as a way of decorating them and making them look more accentuated. These features always work in favour of the man. A man should also have long plaited hair with cowrie shells. This is regarded to be a sign of great riches and prolificacy. The teeth of the men are supposed to always be pearl white. The men then apply black lipstick so that their teeth can be noted by the ladies. A man with all these qualities will find a match at the festival.

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