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The Wodabé man by Colombe  Cambourne

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From a photo by Johan Gerrits.

Johan Gerrits kindly allowed me to paint this amazing photo. He has captured beautiful, beautiful images of many peoples throughout the world.
Many thanks to you Johan.

Pastels on Colourfix paper. A3

Wodaabe (or Wodabé) peoples are a subgroup of the larger Fulbe-speaking Fulani. They prefer to call themselves Bororo. The Wodaabe live in northern Nigeria. They are known for their striking beauty.

Once a year the Wodaabe hold the Gerewol celebration. It provides a venue for men and women to meet and attract mates. The Gerewol is a kind of contest whereby the women choose the most beautiful man.
They look for precise characteristics: tall, lithe limbs with graceful movements, long, straight hair perfectly braided in a beautiful style, and light, smooth skin. A slender nose, thin lips, sparkling white eyeballs and teeth, and an elongated face are desirable.
To enhance their physical traits the men decorate their faces in a traditional way that is very symbolic:

Red ochre, which coats the face, is associated with blood and violence and so only used on special occasions. It makes the face appear narrower.

Yellow clay, used by some dancers to paint patterns on the face, is the colour of magic and transformation. They draw a line down their nose to make it appear more streamlined.

Black in the form of finely ground charcoal, to darken lips and emphasise eyes, is a favourite hue, partly because it is the opposite of white – the colour of loss and death.

Adding to the black lipstick’s significance, it is made from the charred bones of the cattle egret, a bird the Wodaabe associate with “expressivity”. To have charm – that is to have expressivity and charisma – is highly valued in a young man.
Sometimes the lips are coloured with blue to help make the skin look lighter and the teeth whiter.


  • Bobby Dar
    Bobby Darabout 3 years ago

    Wonderful work and great eyes

  • Hi Bobby! Yes, I like the eyes too……… Thank you for leaving a comment.

    – Colombe Cambourne

  • Corinne Pouzet
    Corinne Pouzetabout 3 years ago

    Such a fabulous tapestry of colours on this face ! and what an interesting description too…
    So beautifully executed, my little Birdie

  • Merci little Frog! C’est vrai que j’ai utilisé pas mal de couleurs pour son visage, mais la photo que j’ai prise est un peu trop sombre, ça ne rend pas trop bien les vrais tons rouges et oranges. Bye!

    – Colombe Cambourne

  • SueDeNym
    SueDeNymabout 3 years ago

    You have captured the African light and colour. A portrait of essence. Gorgeous mouth too:)
    See your work featured here

  • Thank you for this feature Sue, it’s a real honour.

    – Colombe Cambourne

  • Jim Phillips
    Jim Phillipsabout 3 years ago

    Beautifully done Colombe, It’s really a very striking portrait.

  • Thank you for your kind words Jim.
    It’s funny but he hasn’t been as successful with everyone as I thought. I certainly LOVED painting him. (I like his eyes)

    – Colombe Cambourne

  • Mary Sedici
    Mary Sediciabout 3 years ago

    OCTOBER 4rd 2011

    Your participation with works/votes it is greatly appreciated

  • Tank you so much Mary!

    – Colombe Cambourne

  • Niki Hilsabeck
    Niki Hilsabeckabout 3 years ago

  • That’s fantastic Niki, thank you!

    – Colombe Cambourne

  • ValM
    ValMabout 3 years ago

    Sensational. The eyes are fabulous, so alive. Those men are soooo handsome and you have done him justice with your painting.

  • Hi Val! You ever loyal friend…. You never fail to leave a comment on my paintings and that’s really lovely. Thank you so much.
    I’ll see you in class on Friday

    – Colombe Cambourne

  • ValM
    ValMabout 3 years ago

    ps Congratulations on all those features!

  • © Linda Callaghan
    © Linda Callaghanabout 3 years ago

    wonderful portrait Colombe ….intense eyes and detail is perfect…interesting read!

  • Hi Linda! It’s nice of you to drop by and thank you.

    – Colombe Cambourne

  • JolanteHesse
    JolanteHesseabout 3 years ago

    I love the drama and superb composition of this work!

  • A comment from an accomplished artist such as you is a real honour. Thank you so very much!

    – Colombe Cambourne

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