Hamar tribe: Extraordinary people


YOU will never understand the true meaning of your life until you travel and experience how others are living theirs. Experience the culture and customs of the Hamar tribe in Ethiopia.

The Hamar or Hamer tribe is agro pastoralists, this means they grow crops and keep livestock, but they place particularly high value on cattle. They are extraordinary people with a unique expression and culture, and this is why a visit to Omo Valley is a must.

The Hamar are known for their unique custom of bull jumping which initiates a boy into manhood. First, female relatives dance and invite whipping from men who have recently been initiated. This shows their support of the initiate, and their scars give them a right to demand his help in time of need.

They boy must run back and forth twice across the backs of a row of bulls or castrated steers and is ridiculed if he falls. The more abundant and extensive the initiate’s scars are, the deeper the girls’ affection is to the boy who is about to become a man.

Totally committed to their initiated sons, the mothers are whipped to blood, in order to prove their courage and accompany their sons during the test. But for Hamar women, beatings are not just part of the initiation ritual, they are daily life until at least two children have been born.

Under Hamar rules, a man needs not to explain why he is delivering a beating. It is his right to mete out as he sees fit. Men can also have more than one wife but only within their own tribe. A bride price of cattle and other goods is provided by prospective husband and his near relatives to the family of the bride.

With junior wives left to do the lion’s share of the planting and water gathering. The Hamer men have many striking characteristics one particularly noticeable is their elaborate hair dressing. They wear a clay cap that is painted with feathers and other ornaments.

The Hamar people live in an arrangement of camps that consists of several related families. The families’ lives in tents arranged in a circle, and the cattle are brought into the centre of the camp at night.

The structures are covered with thatch during the dry season and canvas during the rainy season. Many elements of their traditional religion are still practiced today. For instance they still believe that natural objects such as rocks and trees have spirits.

Also ‘Mingi’ in the Hamar religion and related tribes is a state of being impure or ritually polluted. This kind of a person considered as “Mingi” is often killed by force permanent separation from the tribe by being left alone in the jungle or by drowning in the river.

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