Africa: Wodaabe – relationships

ambience Yakke charm competition


On the edge of the Sahara desert, at the end of the dry season, members of the Wodaabe tribe meet to perform their rites of courtship. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. These chanting and clicking sounds made by Wodaabe men are intended to attract women during an annual charm competition. It’s just one of many tribal traditions which have governed relations between the sexes for hundreds of years.

“The Wodaabe have a special understanding of human nature, which comes out during their courtship season.”

Carol Beckwith is a friend of the Wodaabe — as a photographer, she’s visited them many times, and has learned the rules of their society.

“They have a system where a man can take four wives. The first wife is an arranged marriage, which creates a sound, emotional foundation for children, and an extended family. But the Wodaabe say that’s only half of human nature. The other half of human nature has a tendency towards wild, inexplicable passions, romantic love, and therefore they say that the second, third, and fourth marriages must be marriages of love and passion, to balance the duel need of human nature. This system has worked for centuries.”

According to Carol Beckwith, these marriages of love often take the form of abductions, with the consent of the women involved, and usually occurring right after the charm competitions are completed.

“The woman will mount the camel of her amour and will be raced off into the distance. Now, if this new couple can slaughter a sheep, roast the meat, and share the meat before they’re caught by the family of the girl, this new marriage is confirmed.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation.

Africa: Wodaabe - relationships

Their chanting and clicking may not sound romantic to you, but it's what the Wodaabe men of the Sahara do to attract women.
Air Date:09/08/2000
Scientist:
Transcript:

ambience Yakke charm competition


On the edge of the Sahara desert, at the end of the dry season, members of the Wodaabe tribe meet to perform their rites of courtship. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. These chanting and clicking sounds made by Wodaabe men are intended to attract women during an annual charm competition. It's just one of many tribal traditions which have governed relations between the sexes for hundreds of years.

"The Wodaabe have a special understanding of human nature, which comes out during their courtship season."

Carol Beckwith is a friend of the Wodaabe -- as a photographer, she's visited them many times, and has learned the rules of their society.

"They have a system where a man can take four wives. The first wife is an arranged marriage, which creates a sound, emotional foundation for children, and an extended family. But the Wodaabe say that’s only half of human nature. The other half of human nature has a tendency towards wild, inexplicable passions, romantic love, and therefore they say that the second, third, and fourth marriages must be marriages of love and passion, to balance the duel need of human nature. This system has worked for centuries."

According to Carol Beckwith, these marriages of love often take the form of abductions, with the consent of the women involved, and usually occurring right after the charm competitions are completed.

"The woman will mount the camel of her amour and will be raced off into the distance. Now, if this new couple can slaughter a sheep, roast the meat, and share the meat before they’re caught by the family of the girl, this new marriage is confirmed."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation.