September festivals: Africa’s Salt Cure festival

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By Karen Hart

Find out about an African festival and make light-catchers from salt.

The Salt Cure is one of Africa’s most recognisable celebrations, being held by Fulani and Tuareg cattle herders in the Sahara desert. While various groups gather for specific events, it’s the Cure Salée held by the Wodaabé people that’s probably the most spectacular.

When the Fulani people migrated to West Africa centuries ago, those who remained nomads gave themselves the name ‘Wodaabe’ (people of the taboo), which means those who adhere to the traditional code of the Fulani. The Wodaabe head for the In-Gall region, which is known for being a high salt area, and as cattle need salt to stay healthy, this is a great place to let cattle graze when the grass is nice and lush – at the height of the rainy season.

The event serves, above all, as an opportunity for single Wodaabe woman to pick themselves a husband. During what is known as the Gerewol festival, men dance around, hoping to impress the women in what is effectively a big beauty contest.

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