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Sexually Free Niger Tribe in courtship ritual to ‘steal’ other’s women

Sexually Free Niger Tribe in courtship ritual to ‘steal’ other’s women

  • Stunning set of images show members of Niger’s Wodaabe Fula competing in the week-long Gerewol festival
  • Ritual sees Wodaabe and Tuareg people gather to mark end of the rainy season in the Western African nation
  • During the festival, the tribe’s young men perform a ritual designed to attract a group of eligible women

By Julian Robinson for MailOnline

Published: 14:43, 29 September 2017 | Updated: 16:03, 29 September 2017‎

These stunning photos show tribesmen celebrating as they take part in a traditional courtship competition in Niger.

Members of the country’s Wodaabe Fula tribe are seen competing in the Gerewol, a week-long festival where bachelors compete for the attention of young women.

The ritual makes up part of the Cure Salée – the ‘Festival of the Nomads’ – where the Wodaabe and Tuareg people gather to mark the end of the rainy season in Niger, Western Africa.

Tribeswomen, who are allowed more than one husband, can choose to be ‘stolen’ if they like a man – and leave their previous partner behind.

Stunning photos have emerged showing tribesmen celebrating as they take part in a traditional courtship competition in Niger

Stunning photos have emerged showing tribesmen celebrating as they take part in a traditional courtship competition in Niger

Members of the country's Wodaabe Fula tribe are seen competing in the Gerewol, a week-long festival where bachelors compete for the attention of young women

Members of the country’s Wodaabe Fula tribe are seen competing in the Gerewol, a week-long festival where bachelors compete for the attention of young women

The ritual makes up part of the Cure Salée - the 'Festival of the Nomads' - where the Wodaabe and Tuareg people gather to mark the end of the rainy season in Niger, Western Africa

The ritual makes up part of the Cure Salée – the ‘Festival of the Nomads’ – where the Wodaabe and Tuareg people gather to mark the end of the rainy season in Niger, Western Africa

Dressed to impress: The pictures were captured by a photographer as he travelled through Agazed, in northern Niger, in September

Dressed to impress: The pictures were captured by a photographer as he travelled through Agazed, in northern Niger, in September

Courtship: During the festival, the tribe's young men perform a ritual designed to attract a group of eligible women

Courtship: During the festival, the tribe’s young men perform a ritual designed to attract a group of eligible women

Banker, Mario Gerth, 40, captured the images as he travelled through Agazed, in northern Niger, in September.

The photographer, from Erfurt, Germany, said: ‘The festival’s location is usually kept a closely guarded secret – and is only revealed days before the event is due to take place.

‘On the way, we interviewed locals in order to get directions to the gathering. But when we arrived, it was very easy to take photos.

‘There is no tourism in this area, so a camera is a very new thing to them – and people were pleased to have their picture taken.’

During the festival, the tribe’s young men perform a ritual designed to attract a group of eligible women.

Competition: Young men and women from the tribe take part in the ritual with batchelors hoping to attract partners

Competition: Young men and women from the tribe take part in the ritual with batchelors hoping to attract partners

Competition: Young men and women from the tribe take part in the ritual with batchelors hoping to attract partners

The festival's main event is a dance called a Yaake, but the ritual also includes events like camel races, competitions and bartering over dowry

The festival’s main event is a dance called a Yaake, but the ritual also includes events like camel races, competitions and bartering over dowry

Contest: The winners have their pick of the young women in the tribe and can choose one to offer their hand in marriage

Contest: The winners have their pick of the young women in the tribe and can choose one to offer their hand in marriage

Ritual: Tallness, wide eyes and white teeth are desirable traits of a Wodaabe man, as well as being a good dancer

Ritual: Tallness, wide eyes and white teeth are desirable traits of a Wodaabe man, as well as being a good dancer

Traditional: The festival's main event is a dance called a Yaake but there are other events including camel racing

Traditional: The festival’s main event is a dance called a Yaake but there are other events including camel racing

The festival’s main event is a dance called a Yaake, but the ritual also includes events like camel races, competitions and bartering over dowry.

The winners have their pick of the women and can choose one to offer their hand in marriage.

Gerth said: ‘The men are judged by three of the tribe’s most beautiful women – often the daughters of previous winners – who get to choose their own winner.

‘Winning brings acclaim, respect, and a pick of all the women in the tribe. The ritual is watched by the tribe’s most eligible women, who are waiting to find their next husband.

Getting ready: The traditional festival requires hours of preparation in order to get the men ready for their performance

Getting ready: The traditional festival requires hours of preparation in order to get the men ready for their performance

The Wodaabe people are a polygamous tribe and the women are allowed more than one husband, the photographer said

The Wodaabe people are a polygamous tribe and the women are allowed more than one husband, the photographer said

Banker, Mario Gerth, 40, captured the images as he travelled through Agazed, in northern Niger, in September

Banker, Mario Gerth, 40, captured the images as he travelled through Agazed, in northern Niger, in September

Stunning: Banker, Mario Gerth, 40, captured the images as he travelled through Agazed, in northern Niger, in September

Colourfully dressed female members of the tribe line up as they take part in the traditional courtship festival in northern Niger

Colourfully dressed female members of the tribe line up as they take part in the traditional courtship festival in northern Niger

Applause: Women dressed in traditional clothing clap as they take part in the festivities during the tribe's courtship competition

Applause: Women dressed in traditional clothing clap as they take part in the festivities during the tribe’s courtship competition

Men wearing brightly-coloured face paint watch on as others compete in a traditional courtship ritual competition

Men wearing brightly-coloured face paint watch on as others compete in a traditional courtship ritual competition

The Gerewol is part of the so-called 'Festival of the Nomads' - where the Wodaabe and Tuareg people gather to mark the end of the rainy season in Niger

The Gerewol is part of the so-called ‘Festival of the Nomads’ – where the Wodaabe and Tuareg people gather to mark the end of the rainy season in Niger

‘If they like a man, the women can choose to be “stolen”, leaving their previous husbands behind.’

Tallness, wide eyes and white teeth are desirable traits of a Wodaabe man, as well as being a good dancer.

The festival requires hours of preparation in order to get the men ready for their performance.

Gerth explained: ‘The men spend six hours preparing themselves for their big moment where they can dance and show off in all their finery.

‘They paint their faces with red clay and use thick black eyeliner to highlight the whites of their eyes.

Photographer Mario Gerth said tribesmen paint their faces with red clay and use thick black eyeliner to highlight the whites of their eyes

Photographer Mario Gerth said tribesmen paint their faces with red clay and use thick black eyeliner to highlight the whites of their eyes

Photographer Mario Gerth said tribesmen paint their faces with red clay and use thick black eyeliner to highlight the whites of their eyes

Gerth said that if a woman likes a man, they can choose to be "stolen", leaving their previous husbands behind

Gerth said that if a woman likes a man, they can choose to be “stolen”, leaving their previous husbands behind

The photogapher said women have 'complete sexual freedom and power in the tribe' and that unmarried girls are 'allowed to have sex whenever they desire'

The photogapher said women have ‘complete sexual freedom and power in the tribe’ and that unmarried girls are ‘allowed to have sex whenever they desire’

A tribesman wearing traditional head wear dances and shows his teeth as he takes part in the courtship ritual in Niger

A tribesman wearing traditional head wear dances and shows his teeth as he takes part in the courtship ritual in Niger

Women wearing brightly-coloured face paint chant and pull faces as they take part in the traditional courtship ritual in Niger

Women wearing brightly-coloured face paint chant and pull faces as they take part in the traditional courtship ritual in Niger

‘They also use matching lipstick to emphasise the whites of their teeth when they bare them as part of the ritual.’

The Wodaabe people are a polygamous tribe and the women are allowed more than one husband.

Gerth said: ‘The fact that the women watching may already have a husband is not important. Women have complete sexual freedom and power in the tribe. Unmarried girls are allowed to have sex whenever they desire.’

He added: ‘It was a privilege to be a part of the ritual and I felt like one of them. They accepted my present and invited me for a tea, they explained their culture and told me they felt honoured to be able to share their culture with me.’

The photographer said that the fact that the women watching may already have a husband is not important since the Wodaabe people are a polygamous tribe

The photographer said that the fact that the women watching may already have a husband is not important since the Wodaabe people are a polygamous tribe

Attraction: Men and women pull on traditional clothing and paint their faces before taking part in a courtship ritual in Niger

Attraction: Men and women pull on traditional clothing and paint their faces before taking part in a courtship ritual in Niger

Attraction: Men and women pull on traditional clothing and paint their faces before taking part in a courtship ritual in Niger

The festival's location is usually kept a closely guarded secret - and is only revealed days before the event is due to take place, the photographer said

The festival’s location is usually kept a closely guarded secret – and is only revealed days before the event is due to take place, the photographer said

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