Meet African Men Who Dress Up With Make Up To Impress & Marry Women: Read About The Wodaabe Beauty Contest

by Nana Tamakloe
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The beauty standards and criteria aren’t all that different from your typical beauty pageant, except in the nomadic Wodaabe tribe of Niger, it’s the girls who get to judge the boys.

 

There is one country where you can attend a beauty pageant just like the others with the exception of two rules, it is men who will be parading on the stage, and who ever wins, is selected for marriage. No problem here for the feminists of the world.

Two years ago we posted on our facebook wall men painting their faces in make up getting ready for a pageant to be selected by women. It is not only the face painting that takes up resources, the very valuable clothes they were take a great amount of time to create. Some even take over a year for this particular ceremony

niger male beauty pageant  (1)

niger male beauty pageant  (2)
(c) Rosemary Sheel

These are made with accessories, beads, and then embroidered and decorated with shiny objects and attention-grabbing accessories.

niger male beauty pageant  (3)
(c) Weidinger

The pageant consists of the men dancing and singing for the women who play the role as the judges.

Pic: Copyright Timothy Allen  http://www.humanplanet.com
(c) Timothy Allen

The ladies are looking for the most beautiful face, the tallest and most graceful, the best dressed, flashing the brightest eyes and the biggest, whitest smile in the line up.

The judges seek the for the most hansome, in this case, beautiful face, the best dressed, whitest smile and most charismatic male in the line up. Wodaabe tribe are believed to value beauty, cattle and family the most. And are also known to be vain.

niger male beauty pageant  (5)
(c) Mortarino

niger male beauty pageant  (6)
(c) Marie Laure de Decker

niger male beauty pageant  (7)
(c) Weidinger

niger male beauty pageant  (8)
The Wodaabe women, considered to be the most beautiful in Western Africa, spectate and judge from a distance, pretending to be shy, all the while, sizing up the most desirable contestant to be crowned the next “Mister Wodaabe”.

Pic: Copyright Timothy Allen  http://www.humanplanet.com
(c) Timothy Allen

niger male beauty pageant  (10)
This young man, captured by photographer Rosemary Sheel, won his beauty contest. The winner of Gerewol are remembered for several generations.

niger male beauty pageant  (11)
(c) Rosemary Sheel

niger male beauty pageant  (12)
(c) Weidinger

During the process, contestants are made to drink a beverage of fermented bark which causes a hallucinogenic effect. This makes it hard to be very elegant when performing, which is one of the qualities the female judges seek.

niger male beauty pageant  (13)
(c) Weidinger

niger male beauty pageant  (14)

niger male beauty pageant  (15)

It seems like the concept of dressing up and looking pretty doesn’t only apply to the women when it comes to Niger. What we see here is a total opposition from gender steriotypes, where men are appreciated for their make up and fancy looks. Could this be the result of the world where monetary relationships are abolished? Who knows, great culture, great people and more over, great style.

It seems only fitting then that in their native language, Wodaabe, literally translates to “people of taboo.”

Photography by Rosemary Sheel, Alfred Weidinger, Timothy Allen, Steve McCurry, Marie Laure de Decker

Read More On Niger Culture

 


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