The Fulani have traditionally been herders, roaming across the plains and river valleys of Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Senegal. Alliye says the Fulani "are the ones you see selling milk in the market, or carrying it on their heads in the streets," and indeed, the Fulani relationship with their cattle is a strong one.
In fact, the most famous festival in all of Africa, the Cure Salee (Salt Cure), is a Fulani festival centered around cattle. During the Cure Salee, in early September, the grasses outside of Ingal, in Niger, contain high amounts of salt. Cattle, like most animals, need salt to stay healthy. For most of the year the Fulani people are spread out over a huge area, but because their animals need salt they all come together in Ingal at the same time. They don't miss the opportunity to have fun and try to show off for each other!
This is where the men put on their makeup!! The Cure Salee is a time when the men show off their finest features and their charm in a yaake (dance performance), to woo the Fulani women. The men blacken their lips to make their teeth seem sparkly-white, paint streaks down their foreheads and noses, braid their hair, and wear beads, bangles, and shiny jewelry with hopes of attracting the attention of a special woman, and marrying her.
Besides the Cure Salee, the Fulani are known for their long and elaborate courtship, wedding, and post-wedding rituals that take place in villages. For example, Alliye claims that friends of the bride-to-be bring her to the forest, where friends of the groom-to-be find her, chase her and carry her back to the groom's house. She has to cry the whole way to show how emotional she's feeling! Further, there is a book with the statement, "Do you love (insert name)?" written in it. Both the bride and the groom sign their names to the statement, making the marriage official.
Every wedding guest gives a gift to the couple. The gift might be a cooking pot, or it might be lots of cooking pots! Alliye took me to his cousin's house, where all her wedding gifts were arranged on a cabinet. What most struck me were the numbers of pots in different colors: black, white, blue, red, and green...sixteen different sets! There were also plates, cutlery, and cloths.
Alliye and I visited his great-aunt, Madame N'Boye Youro Bocoum, at her cloth workshop. She weaves traditional Fulani designs into large cotton coverings that can hang on the wall for decoration, over the door to keep out mosquitoes, or even to wear. When Fulani women marry, they always receive cloth like this as gifts. Although Alliye's great-aunt wanted me to buy one, I explained to her that our backpacks were pretty heavy already and I couldn't carry it with me. The Fulani culture, fascinating and beautiful, remains a part of West Africa that I can only carry in my heart.
Team - Why Have the Gods Deserted Me?!? - The Magic of the Book, Segu
Kavitha - From Word of Mouth to Word from the Wise
Monica - Not Just a Desk Job: Women, Rice Cultivation, and the Office du Niger
Making a Difference - The Struggle of Women Worldwide
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