The Hamar people were the first tribe I encountered in the Omo Valley, after arriving in Turmi we went out the first afternoon to a Cattle jumping ceremony (previous blog post), and the following day went out at dawn and dusk to visit a couple of Hamar villages. The people have a very distinctive style, with women wearing elaborately decorated goatskin, beaded necklaces, bracelets and waistbands. They wear copper necklaces to signify their marital status, with the 1st wife wearing 2 copper ones and a lather long tipped one. The men and women both indulge in elaborate hairstyles – the women use red clay and butter to plait their hair, and the men wear clay caps, sometimes topped with feathers.
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Jumping the Cattle: Hamar Tribe – Omo Valley, Ethiopia
When a boy from the Hamar tribes is ready to ‘come of age’ he must complete the ‘Ukele Bulla’ (Cattle jumping) ceremony. This event usually happens after the harvest, and upon completion allows the man to marry, own cattle and have children. Prior to the jumping the female relatives of the man gather and demand to be whipped, the ‘Maza’ (a man who has already jumped the cattle within 3 months) uses a long fin stick to strike the women and girls on their exposed back. It is a consensual act, with the females begging the Maza for more. The more scarring on the womens back, the more devotion it shows to their families.
The young male about to leap the bulls has his head partially shaved and is rubbed with sand to wash away his sins, he is then smeared with dung to give him strength. A line of cattle are arranged to the sound of horns and drums, and the boy must complete 4 ‘jumps’, only when he has been through this initiation can he marry a wife who will be chosen by his parents.