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Wodaabe Tribe in Africa, May Steal Another Man’s Wife for Marriage

The Wodaabe tribe lives in the Sahel in a desert area that stretches across Africa.

Men from the Wodaabe tribe have a unique competition to win a woman’s heart to become his new wife.

The most important date on the Wodaabe calendar is the end of the September rainy season when sexually liberated tribes gather to celebrate Gerewol.

After most of their time spent with family groups through the arid desert, Gerewol is an opportunity for them to gather with other groups for a traditional music and dance festival that lasts for seven days and seven nights.

The most interesting of all Gerewol dances is Yake, which is a marriage call for men.

Men spend six hours preparing themselves for the big moment by dressing themselves up.

They painted their faces with clay, using black eyeliner and using lipstick.

To complete the look, they wear white ostrich feathers in their hair, they also paint their nose with white lines to make it sharper.

They want to look spectacular in front of the eyes of the women who line up to watch them.

During the dance, the men stand shoulder to shoulder and slowly move in a circle.

The men were rated by the three most beautiful women in the group who were usually chosen because their father had won Yaake before.

Each female judge must choose the winner himself.

The victory will make them praised and can choose women in the tribe.

The winning men watch over the women who best meet the tribal requirements and intend to find their next husband.

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If the women like the man, he can choose to be ‘stolen’ by one of the more handsome men and leave their husbands.

Those who want to be stolen wait for the man of their choice to pass and pat their shoulders.

“We love going to watch the men in Gerewol – one view and they know that you like them,” said a woman in this tribe.

The fact that women who watch Gerewol may already have a husband is not important to the tribe because women in Wodaabe have sexual freedom and are allowed to have more than one husband.

Even unmarried girls are allowed to have sex whenever and with anyone they want.

Their first marriage is traditionally arranged by their family when children are called coogal or they can get married because of love called teegal.

Unlike women, men in the Wodaabe tribe have relatively little control over sex.

They don’t know whether a woman will go with them or whether their own wife will leave them for another man.

For this reason, not everyone allows his wife to attend Gerewol.

“We went to Gerewol to have fun,” said a Wodaabe man.

“If I get a woman, then that’s good, that’s a bonus.”

One man even proudly revealed that he had stolen 30 wives in his life but not all of them were fun and games.

“You know, stealing a wife is not easy,” said a member of the tribe.

“Only Wodaabe knows. You stole a woman from someone else and she will give a son to your lineage, even grandchildren. Only Wodaabe knows how to do that.”

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