Nomad portraits from the 'Cure Salée' festival in Niger
These images are part of an ongoing project focusing on the nomadic people of northern Niger and Mali; mainly the Kel Tamasheq (also known as the Touareg) and the Wodaabe. The images chosen were all taken at the annual 'Cure Salée' festival in northern Niger. The Cure Salée is a time for the nomads to meet, discuss, celebrate, play music, dance and engage in contests such as the 'most beautiful turban' or the 'best-dressed camel'.
Held every year at the end of the rainy season, Wodaabe Peul & Kel Tamasheq nomads gather to refresh their herds in the salty pools near the town of Ingall in Niger before heading south for the dry season. This developed into an occasion for the different nomadic groups to meet, exchange news, engage in courtship, renew friendships and hold camel races and other contests.
The theme of 'The Journey' seemed apt for these images, partly because for nomadic people their traditional lifestyle is in itself a journey, and also because the 'Cure Salée' marks the start of a key journey in the nomadic calendar. The reality of nomadic life in this region is currently extremely desperate, and the traditional way of life is under threat, due to successive droughts and now the closure of their markets due to coronavirus. I chose these images however to celebrate the beauty, creativity and strength of the Kel Tamasheq and Peul culture - and to show them how I think they would want to be seen - rather than focus on the difficulties they are now facing.