by Sarah Corbett
The word Guedra represents several aspects of a form of dance which is particular to Southern Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria.
The primary meaning is cooking pot, when this pot is covered with a stretched leather skin to create a drum, the drum is also known as Guedra. When the drummer plays a beat representing a heartbeat using the transformed pot, this beat is also called Guedra. The form of movements made by the dancers responding to that beat, at all times whilst the dancer is on their knees is called Guedra. The dancer is also called Guedra.
There is a particular and traditional manner of dress and adornment for women who partake in this dance. The Guedra dancer is swathed with blue fabric, this fabric was traditionally coloured with Indigo, which was hammered into the cloth without the use of water.
This process led to the title ‘Blue man’ for Saharan Traders, as the indigo would stain the skin. The high cost of indigo has led to other dying methods for these fabrics in recent times.
For the most part the dancers are covered by a piece of fine fabric whilst performing, but beneath this veil they are heavily adorned.
Their plaited hair is encrusted with a mixture of conus shell discs, agate tanfouk pendants, silver, amber and agate beads. Cross drilled Amber beads are a favourite style.
A head piece of horsehair, or leather which is adorned with European glass beads, Amber, agate , conus and silver is worn as a diadem, sometimes these are very tall.
A fine strand across the forehead of small gold washed pendants is also often seen.
Around the neck, beaded strands often with a triangular agate pendant, Nila glass from Djenne, and Venetian trade beads , always featuring cross drilled beads too.
Short leather necklaces , akin to chokers feature silver southern cross pendants and Venetian glass beads. Strands of Amber mixed with traditional silver Mauritanian bead , and always an exceptionally long ‘Tesbih’ an exceptionally long strand of beads which resemble prayer beads. The ‘Tesbih’ are worn wrapped around the shoulders to hold the veil in place, they are often moved to the wrist during the dancing.
The bracelets are worn in pairs, Large hinged cuffs with knobs of silver applied and smaller granulated bangles too.
Silver rings adorn the fingers.
Seat of silver Fibula worn with chains suspended between them.
Feet and hands are adorned with henna in geometric styles. The local henna customs are to use a resist taped relief technique to create the patterns.
Heavy pairs of Khal Khal Anklets are also worn.
The entire jewel collection is a source of pride to the wearer and of joy to the observer.