|Wodaabe Ceremonial Hat|
And the winner is...
If you live in the middle of nowhere there’s only one way to get a wife; and it’s a step by step process. Step One: drink a hallucinogen to enhance stamina. Step Two: apply make-up in copious amounts. Begin with black lipstick. It will make your teeth look whiter. Then liberally apply red or yellow ochre to make your face look thinner. Next, use black eyeliner made from charred bird bones. It will highlight the whites of your eyes. Finally, decorate your nose with a white stripe to make it look longer; and if you wish, add a few embellishments for good measure. Step Three: accentuate your costume with strange, wonderful additions like sequined sunglasses, toys, ostrich feathers, and gum foil folded like origami. Step 4: stand together with other like-minded individuals for a line dance, bare your teeth, bounce up and down, raise your arms, bob your head, stomp like an Egret, and chatter loudly in no known language while keeping your teeth tightly closed. If you’re lucky, a female judge will tap you on the shoulder to become a husband; and if you’re smart, you’ll block the beating sun by wearing this week’s New Arrival.
This week’s New Arrival features a traditional ceremonial hat from the Wodaabe people of West Africa. A group of cattle herding nomads, the Wodaabe spend their life on the move across the Sahel, a broad area of vegetation forming a coastline along the Sahara Desert’s ocean of sand. Most of their lives are spent in isolation, avoiding drought and conflict, in pursuit of grazing ground for their cattle. Traveling in small family units, they stubbornly cling to their ancient, nomadic way of life. Yet, their lifestyle is not what makes them memorable. It’s their vanity. The Wodaabe proudly call themselves the most beautiful people on earth, a purely subjective claim they steadfastly defend. Proving this claim falls upon the men, who unabashedly beautify themselves for a periodic festival called the Gerewol. This festival isn’t just a simple social gathering; it’s an opportunity for the men, not the women, to preen, prance, and dance in the hope of finding a wife, or maybe even a one-night stand. The Gerewol is as much beauty pageant as jamboree; and this hat a reminder of the old adage, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
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“Cultural objects tell stories; and in each story a simple message is found—all cultures are the same, we just express ourselves differently”–GLEN JOFFE, OWNER