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The Hamar live on the Eastern side of the Omo Valley in Southern Ethopia

After the harvest, the cattle-leaping ceremony takes place; the way for teens to reach adulthood, go on to marry a woman selected by the family, own cattle and have kids.

The elders wear their nicest clothes to observe the ceremony, such as blankets made in China, and they cover their legs with a special and expensive green mud that can only be found in a remote area.

The few tourists around can watch the ceremony; it’s a way for the tribes to afford the 2days of festivities (meals and alcohol are supplied to dozens of guests).

The Maz will whip the jumper’s female relatives, except the mother. They have already leaped across the cattle, are still single, and live seperately from the rest of the tribe, going from ceremony to ceremony. The young ladies who admire their beauty will attempt to seduce them.

Before getting married, the fiancée (called Uta) who doesn’t know her husband-to-be, will be fattened and covered daily in grease, and live shut away in a hut outside the village for a few months.

The bloodier and more extensive the scars, the deeper runs the girl’s affection to the boy who is about to become a man. The girls don’t show any pain, some even smile when they are whipped, as a sort of provocation.

Before the ceremony, the jumper (Ukuli) has his head half shaven and stripped naked.


The jumper’s female relatives fight to be whipped first by the Maz to prove their love & strength. The whipper, in all circumstances remains calm & serene, hitting with a chain without showing any feelings.

Hidden in the forest, the Maz are made up and purified. Each taking their turn before leaving to go and select the cows that will be jumped over by the novice.

The Hamers don’t appreciate photographs, for the elders still think that it drains their blood!

The youngest girls are discouraged from being whipped, even if they dance, sing, and take part in the ceremony with the adults.

When the Maz go inside the bush to be made up and purified for the ceremony, the girls chase them into the trees demanding to be whipped!


Left: A symbol of the jumper’s new status: a new seat/pillow is going to be given to him. It’s carved and painted on the day of the jump.

Right: The Hamar woman is wearing the 1st wife’s collar. She has a privileged status compared to the 2nd & 3rd wives, who will be treated like slaves and regularly beaten by their husbands. (It’s a Hamar tradition).

The women from the novice’s family dance in a circle, wearing animal pelts, butter and ochre, while they sing and continually blow into little trumpets to proclaim the ceremony and their surroundings.

The jumper’s relatives fight to be whipped 1st by the Maz to prove their love and strength. The whipper in all circumstances remains calm & serene, hitting without showing feelings.

The jumper makes a dash for 4 tries – if he’s successful, the Maz will give him a new name: He who jumped the 1st cow!

In his turn, he will become the whipper, and 2/3mths later, his family will intorduce him to his new wife. He will have to pay about 20 cows for her.

The jumper succeeds, and a huge dance takes place. The party will go on all night. It’s also a moment when the girls can flirt and be noticed by the boys. Touching a man’s leg is a clear seduction signal.

Some Hamar people move to the cities, go to school, converting to Christianity, like Miss Toro, who isn’t part of the tribe anymore like she was 2yrs ago in the picture she’s holding.


Source: Eric Lafforgue


3 Comments leave one →
  1. 18/02/2012 00:49

    great post…

  2. 18/02/2012 11:48

    Awesome pictures! Thank you.

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