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Sahara

Day 55: Near Ingal

Near Ingal, Niger 
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Many faces of the Gerewol. For the young Wodaabe eye-rolling means sex appeal. The lips and eyes are accentuated with kohl, a powder from ground stibnite; the yellow base is from another local stone. Cowrie shells and ostrich feathers are essential ingredients in the art of seduction.
Michael Palin - SaharaThe girls are brought forward, also dressed and made up, one hand shielding the face in a show of shyness and modesty.

The girls turn to face the row of dancing men, bringing the grimacing and eye-rolling to grotesquely bizarre heights, before coming forward, one by one, and choosing their man by a single touch.

What makes this whole surreal performance rather appealing is the similarity to a lot of things we do ourselves. It is basically a ritualised high-school hop or coming-out dance, the difference here being that the sexual motive is not only acknowledged and accepted but actively encouraged.

Later, in my tent, sweltering my way to sleep, I can hear the Gerewol still going on, and the insistent thrum of the voices gives way to dreams of tall thin pouting men, their make-up running onto sweet, shy girls. More bromide in the tea for me.
Near Ingal, Niger 
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Many faces of the Gerewol.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 55
  • Country/sea: Niger
  • Place: Ingal
  • Book page no: 165

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