Searching for the Gerewol Festivals

“This is a great moment, when you see, however distant, the goal of your wandering. The thing which has been living in your imagination suddenly become part of the tangible world. It matters not how many ranges, rivers or parching dusty ways may lie between you; it is yours now for ever. ” Freya Stark

On the last leg of the journey home from my trip to photograph and experience the Nomad festivals in Niger.. I have been dreaming of seeing these festivals since I first discovered Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher’s books on Niger and other parts of Africa. I have been traveling with Leslie Clark, of the Nomad Foundation, who led the trip, Diane Marinos and Louise Porter, fellow photographers. We had a tough first week finding only one festival rehearsal, visited some nomadic camps and a rather modern Tuareg wedding with electric guitar and few camels. We persevered, mainly keeping our sense of humor, gathering  information wherever we could and found there would be two large festivals beginning in a few days. Then the wild adventures began and we stepped back in time. A biblical scene awaited us as we arrived at the first festival, a Wodaabe Worso. This is a gathering of families where the nomads celebrate their way of life, the end of a successful rainy season and the one time of year they can all get together. It means they bring their houses, herds and families, arriving on camels, burros and many on foot.  It was enormous—thousands of animals, maybe thousands of people-no real  way to count, our wonderful crew and our ever faithful security team which you cannot travel in Niger without and the 4 of us.

We slept under the stars, the music of the herds our lullaby and the milky way and full moon overhead. During the day we were warmly welcomed everywhere mainly because of the wonderful work Leslie and her foundation has been doing in this area since the 90’s and joined in the celebrations under the blazing hot  sun. Leslie is a true inspiration. She speaks the Wodaabe language, has lived in their tents  and traveled by camel with the nomads across the grasslandsand learned their customs and traditions. Then created her foundation and built schools and opened medical clinics and most importantly wells, and then creates  beautiful paintings of her experiences.

The whole experience was magical

more tales to follow…

The Gerewol

The Gerewol

 

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