Tribal Secrets-The Wodaabe

The National Geographic series Tribal Secrets has a fascinating episode that has been airing this month about The Wodaabe people of Niger, Africa. The Wodaabe have a celebration after the rainy season, called the Geerewol, in which men participate in charm, beauty, and dance competitions judged by women in an effort to make romantic connections.

Here is the National Geographic description, “Imagine a male beauty pageant that is judged by women. That is what happens in a nomadic tribe called The Wodaabe. Now, NGC takes viewers to the fringes of the Sahara desert in West Africa to show us the lives of these cattle herders. Insulated from modern society, they have maintained their ancient way of life for thousands of years. Witness their day-to-day activities that revolve around an ancient belief system of chivalry as we follow 2 young husbands in their preparation for this pageant.”

Apparently there is a documentary out there in the anthro scene (which I have not seen) called Strange Relations featuring the Wodaabe’s dress and social concepts. One blog I read addressed with disdain, and lack of enthusiasm, the fact that anthropologists frequently study groups like the Wodaabe as a means to understand dress, gender and marriage. They seemed to feel it’s exploitive. But, I tend to disagree, as long as the study is in good taste, makes every effort for thorough understanding, and provides new insight. I particularly find value in outlets like National Geographic as they break down academic elitism by bringing insight into people foreign to oneself to late night cable TV. Check it out as well as the other episodes in the Tribal Secrets series.

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1 Comment

  • Janine January 24, 2012 04.35 pm

    such beautiful photography. I love learning about foreign culture and beauty, the fashion and the values… how cool that the women get to judge the men’s beauty.


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