Hamer People is most know for displaying an elaborate and eclectic selection of body decorations that embraces the full gamut of Omo specialties with the notable exception of lip plates.
The women are particularly striking , adorned with thick plaits of ochre-colored hair hanging down in a heavy fringe, leather skirts decorated with cowries, a dozen or more copper bracelets fixed tightly around their arms, thick welts on their body created by cutting themselves and treating the wound with ash and charcoal, and colorful beaded bands hanging from around their waists. Married women wear one or more thick copper necklaces often with a circular wedge perhaps 10 cm long projecting out of the front. The men, though also given to body scarring, are more plainly adorned except when they paint themselves with white chalk paste before a dance or ceremony. The clay hair buns fashioned on some men’s heads indicate that they have killed a person or a dangerous animal within the last year.
The most important event in Hamer society is the bull jumping ceremony, the culmination of a three day long initiation rite that is normally held before the long rains, between late February and early aril, the third day begins with the women getting drunk in preparation to be beaten ritualistically with sticks. These beatings are by choice, and show devotion to the boy who is jumping. The women rarely scream, but rather taunt the men to hit them harder, resulting in huge bleeding gashes and honorific scars. In the late afternoon, up to 30 bulls are lined up in a row , but these days six to eight bulls is more common. The initiate stark naked and sporting a demented unkempt afro hair style, has to leap on to the back of the first bull, then from one bull to the next, until he reaches the end of the row. He must then turn around and repeat the performance in the opposite direction, then a third and fourth time, before he has proved his worth to everybody’s satisfaction. On completion of this test, the young man joins the ranks of the maza – Maza are other men that have successfully completed the bull jumping event Should he succeed then he may take a wife (not necessarily immediately: some boys as young as ten are initiated) but if he fails he will have to wait a year and try again. The Hamer people also known for Night dancing called evangadi.
Besides the weekly Hamer market it is also very rewarding to visit one of the smaller villages that lie outside the Hamer town of Turmi and Dimeka. Incredibly neat, and constructed entirely from mud , wood and thatch, one of the most striking aspects of these small villages-which typically consist of a few extended families across perhaps ten to 15 huts- is the total absence of non-organic or western artefacts’. It might seem banal when put into words, but it is nevertheless rather sobering to encounter such simplicity and evident lack of material want, and to contrast it against our won restless need for distraction and accumulation of useless paraphernalia.
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