“Fat Ladies of Chotters”

I know it is a rude title for my blog, but it is a phenomena that I have come across here in Mauritania. I was even shown a You Tube video by my English teaching cohortess–Emma. In the video, a skinny Mauritanian man was being interviewed about his preference for a wife. In translation with sub-titles, the man said he preferred “fat women”–a little meat on their bones so to say. The term for this fattening process is called “gavage” or as the French would say “leblouh“.

Now I am not the one who started this conversation but had been earlier alerted to this phenomena of “fat ladies” in Chotters by my head teacher. Apparently, the term used is gauvage or what the French (leblouh) do for foie gras–“stuffing the goose” so to say.

In a little bit of research, they might have done this in the past and to be fair, there are many Mauritanian women here that I have seen that have an “ample bodice” to them. It is difficult to say that many local gals are “chubby” because there is no true sense of their shape underneath their flowing, yet flowery voluminous native raiments, called mulafa (like a mu mu), that they wear. The majority of those chubby women are what I detect as being the Mauritanians of the fairer skinned Arab descendance.

Of the 3.1 million Maurs, the majority are made up of Arab and Berbers of the nomadic persuasion and this “fattening of the bride” is a tradition carry-over amongst those camel herders of bygone years. A ‘fat woman” to marry was considered. Moreover, a man’s “fat wife” meant he was rich, more likely, meant that she was fertile and could bear many children. I reminds me of a Bugandan king who used to fatten his wives so much so that they could only roll around on the floor, but that is according to Victorian explorer, Sir Richard Burton.

However, traditions here in West Africa die hard or don’t die at all. There are still, for lack of a better term, “fat farms” where young brides to be are fattened up or “gavage” or what the French would say–“leblouh“. Even though this tradition is repulsive to most of us, this tradition has never been outlawed by the government.

The only skinny gals I have seen are the two young Senegalese women who cook our meals on campus at HIE. They do so in hip-hugging jeans and fashionable blouses or skirts, much like Kenyan gals would wear. And being somewhat of a fashion aficionado because of buying stretchy jeans and whatnot for wife, daughter, sister-in-law, I know full well that Kenyan gals if not African gals–don’t really fit into “skinny jeans” if you get my drift. Not to offend anyone, but African gals don’t have too much “junk in the trunk” they are just born with a trunk.

According to some articles, the gavage was on the decline but now it is back in vogue as well as “fat farms’ for young girls where girls are eating between 14,000 to 16,000 calories a day–4 times as much as an adult male bodybuilder consumes–sheesh wallah!

Needless to say, I am hesitant to take any pictures of women here maybe any of them–I am still a visitor after all and have my 90 day probation to consider.

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