Itinerary – ‘The Gerewol and the Wodaabe’ Chad 3-10 October 2020

Boy beauty

Dates

3rd-10th
October 2020

Location

Chad

Price

€5,450

Our photo tours focus on taking you to places, which have a unique appeal to photographers. We seek the beauty of landscape and seascape, the heritage of cultural diversity and the bustle of street and marketplaces. Effectively, photography through geography.

Our tours will seek the best moments, light and opportunities to compose shots, which reflect upon those inimitable moments. We feel it is of value to immerse ourselves in local culture through, not only people and landscapes, but also, where feasible, through culinary experience and accommodation, which is culturally sympathetic.

Interaction and understanding and, where feasible, spending time with people, makes moments and images more meaningful.

We pride ourselves on a ‘hands on’ approach, which enables clients to avail of sessions in which there are photo critiques and a chance to reflect on images captured whilst on tour. It is recommended that all participants bring laptops or tablets so that we can benefit from interaction and discussion, and ways of editing our images to get a result reflecting your own unique style.
‘It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see’.
Henry David Thoreau

Once a year in Chad the Wodaabe come together in a festival known as the Gerewol. This is a beauty pageant for the men so that they might be selected by the women of the tribe.

The women are usually younger and the men are seen as fair game in a society which is polygamous and polygynous. The men adorn themselves using a diversity of facial paint colours and the whites of the eye and teeth colour are particularly important. So too their outfits which are embellished with beads, buttons and baubles in the brightest of colours. Mirrored tunics and hats add to the exuberance and adornment. The overall appearance with the paint, makeup and outfits can only be described as feminine from our cultural perspective.

They dance like male peacocks or other such birds who exhibit their plumage to attract females.  The male beauty ideal of the Wodaabe stresses tallness, white eyes and teeth; the men will often roll their eyes and show their teeth to emphasize these characteristics. They are animists at heart and this may be why they emulate the animal kingdom.

It is a festival seen by few and we travel to a remote area of the Sahel to immerse ourselves in their traditions.

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Tour Details

Alternative Visions
‘The Gerewol and the Wodaabe’
3 -10 October 2020

Itinerary

Day 1. 3rd October– N’Djamena

Arrive in N’Djamena and transfer to the hotel. Overnight Hotel Mercure or similar.

N'Djamena

Formerly known as Fort Lamy, Chad's capital sits on the banks of the Chari River facing Cameroon and is the largest city in the country. Founded by the French at the turn of the 20th century, it has grown from a town with a population of around ten thousand in the 1930s to something approaching a million now. Over the years it has seen its fair share of conflict, largely destroyed during the civil war of the 80s and stormed by rebel forces in 2008. Its wide boulevards were once flanked with trees, but these were cut down to deprive attackers of covers, and only in recent years did its dusty streets become paved. Rather devoid of traditional sights, N'Djamena is home to a large and sprawling central market which is interesting to explore, and also contains the National Museum with a collection of prehistoric artefacts from the surrounding area.

Days 2-7. 4th-9th October  – Durbali/Massenya area

We drive through the Sahel, to join the Wodaabe people in their celebration of the

Gerewol festival.

The Wodaabe tribe (Mbororo) a branch of the Fulani tribe are nomadic pastoralists who are found predominantly in Niger and Chad, in the Sahel region of Sub Saharan Africa. They speak Fula which isn’t a written language.

A large wooden bed (Suudu) is the most important possession of each family; when camping it is surrounded by some screens. The women also carry calabashes as a status symbol. These calabashes are passed down through the generations, and often provoke rivalry between women. The Wodaabe mostly live on milk and ground millet, as well as yoghurt, sweet tea and occasionally the meat of a goat or sheep.

The code of behavior of the Wodaabe emphasizes reserve and modesty (semteende), patience and fortitude (munyal), care and forethought (hakkilo), and loyalty (amana). They also place great emphasis on beauty and charm.

Parents are not allowed to talk directly to their two first born children, who will often be cared for by their grandparents. During daylight, husband and wife cannot hold hands or speak in a personal manner with each other.

At this festival there are two groups of Wodaabe, the Sudosukai and Japto. They are both scarred facially and on their bodies using razor blades and ash is then rubbed into the open wound. The result is a black tattoo which is slightly keloidal (raised). This scarification starts with very young children and tattoos are added with time. The Japto are more heavily scarred than the Sudosukai. There are perhaps some physiological differences too with the Sudosukai being finer. Many have model like features and all are very slim.

They dance endlessly at this festival with breaks when it is too hot. They have their own ancient rhythms which are repeated over and over. They dance in circles and lines (Yaake) with the latter culminating in choices made by small numbers of girls. To participate in the Gerewol the girls must have menstruated prior to the festival. Effectively when choices are made the girls know they are going to have sex in the bush with the chosen Wodaabe male, if the male accepts them. This may be a one night affair, or last for longer, sometimes culminating in marriage. Men may have a few wives and as women do all the work second or third wives are seen positively by the first wife. If a husband is infertile he may ask a fellow tribesman to impregnate his wife. Children are prolific and are seen as a sign of machismo, wealth and labour. Larger numbers help to offset high infant and child mortality.

Their cattle are also seen as their wealth and they very rarely eat them. They do however trade them for other goods. Their animal husbandry is superb and there is always a very young (less than 7 years old) herdsman. They grow up quickly in such a society. The girls may be as young as12 or 13 when they make their selections at the Gerewol. They have no formal education and their culture is still resilient to an encroaching outside world.

They do not seem to suffer from malnourishment, yet they may only eat once a day and it is predominantly vegetarian using millet, milk and perhaps some cassava or manioc. They are tall, slim and well toned with a life which is endlessly physical.

As a tribe they perform the Gerewol for themselves not for any visitors. Very few have ever seen this in Chad. More have seen it in Niger but instability has curbed any potential tourism. There were only a few photographers and travellers there but the friendliness of the tribe was universal although quite a few were shy, which is part of their cultural code.

They are one of Africa’s ethnic groups with unique cultural practices and exist in Niger and Chad. They are nomadic cattle herders found in the Sahel a semi-arid region in the south of the Sahara Desert that spreads across several countries from the West to the East of Africa.

The Wodaabe speak the Fula language and are a subgroup of the Fulani people, who are spread across West Africa. “Wodaabe” means “people of the taboo,” which is believed to be a reference to the tribe’s separation from the main Fulani culture.

Overnight camping. (BLD)

Day 8. 10th October -  N’Djamena and onwards flight in the evening

Overnight in the Mercure Hotel or similar if you do not have an evening flight

(this must be booked by the client and is not included in the tour)

*Please note that the exact dates of the festival are not decided upon until a few months before. So please do not book international flights until the dates are determined.

Services included

  • Meals/Cook – breakfast, lunch and dinner for the time of the tour with the exception of those in N’Djamena. Meals will also include water and soft drinks.
  • Government permits
  • Wodaabe permits for the festival.
  • Local taxes
  • Transfer to and from the airports to the hotel.
  • Photo tour leaders and very knowledgeable English speaking guide.
  • Accommodation as listed above but this may change but we will endeavour to maintain similiar standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere. Tent, mattress included but your own pillow, sheet/sleeping bag are required
  • Travel by Toyota land cruisers (4x4) or similar.

The cost of the tour is €5450. To reserve a place there is a deposit of €1000 based on 4-6 people travelling. Payment is possible by Bank Transfer and also by PayPal, in this case an additional 5% will be added to cover the transaction fees (PayPal).  The final balance is due three months prior to departure. There is the option of a luxury camp but this costs substantially more.

Services not included / additional costs.

  • International flights
  • Alcohol and meals in N’Djamena
  • You will also need some extra money for tips for drivers, cooks, guides etc. Approximately US$15/20 per driver/guide/cook per day. This shared between all participants.
  • Visas – We don’t arrange visas, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then please get in touch. A visa agency such as Travcour (travcour.com) or (https://www.visahq.co.uk/contact_us.php) can assist. There are found in several countries
  • Airport taxes – If there are any departure taxes to pay that are not included within the cost of your ticket, you’ll need to pay these yourself.
  • Travel insurance – this is essential. Chad is one of the countries where there is foreign and commonwealth travel advice warnings but this trip has been running for several years with a very reputable agency (European/Chad based) and is deemed safe.

I will send out medical forms, gear lists, additional information on the tribes, travel liability forms at a later stage.

If you have any questions please contact me by email or telephone trevcole1@me.com +353872825851