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Hamar: Where Women Entice Men To Whip Them

The Hamar people of the Omo Valley In Ethiopia consist of over 46,532 people. These pastoral and polygamous people are popular for their traditional ‘jumping of bulls’. This ceremony often attracts neighbours and people foreign to their culture to witness it.

As the name implies, Hamar men are made to jump over 15 to 30 bulls naked as a rite into becoming a Maza. Mazas are men who have successfully passed through this rite and allowed to marry.

Hamar man jumping the bulls at a bull jumping ceremony near Turmi in Ethiopia in 2010 November, 10. Photo credit: WANT expeditions

Failure to succeed means he will receive whips from the women and be unable to marry Women entice the Maza to use whips and canes on their backs by forcing them to beat them, sometimes against their wish. With blood seeping out from their backs, they tell the men to continue whipping them. He maintains the right not to explain why he is beating them.

These whips, though painful, show that the women are dedicated to the men. The newly initiated Maza relatives are not left out. The number of scars on the back also shows the new Maza who loves him best. They take in the beating on the condition that he remembers them when they face difficulties.

When this is complete, they go into the Evangadi (night dancing) before the families of the new Maza announce his first wife.

Their traditional clothes are made of goatskin. They also adorn their bodies by cutting their skin and adding ash and charcoal to the cuts.

The men and the women do not have gender roles when taking care of their cattle. These cattle are used to define their wealth status and are used to also used to pay the woman’s bride price.

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