The Hamar are an Omotic community who inhabit the hills on the eastern side of the Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia. They live in the Hamer woreda area, a fertile area of the Omo River in the Omo Valley of the Southern nations, nationalities and people republic. The total population of the Hamar is estimated at about 46,000 people.
The Hamar are one of many tribes living in the Omo Valley, near the Omo River. For the last decade, tourists have been visiting the Hamar tribe more regularly, and the Hamar have started asking the tourists to pay for taking photographs. Despite this increasing contact with modern people, the Hamar succeed in preserving their culture and customs.
The Hamar tribe distinguish themselves from other Omo Valley tribes by the special bull jumping ritual, called Ukili Bula. The literal translation of this is ‘man’ and ‘bull’, and young Hamar men are supposed to jump four times over a row of cows to succeed. When a young Hamar man reaches a certain age, he must undergo this ritual to mature. It gives him the right to marry, to own cattle and to have children. Prior to Ukili Bula celebrations will start and female relatives of the young men will demand to be flogged. It’s a way of showing the emotional connection, and that the women are willing to undergo pain for the young man.
Jewelry has a great significance in the Hamar and represents the social status of the wearer. Married and engaged women carry two heavy iron rings around their necks. These rings are referred to as Esente. Women adorn themselves with cowrie shells, glass, seed beads and metal, and goatskin, which cover their upper body. Older women adorn themselves by wearing thick iron rings (zau) stacked on their arms and legs. Traditional arm rings can only be purchased with cattle (twenty-five rings for one cow). As a Hamar woman dies before her husband, the rings are cut off because her husband owns the rings. The rings will then be given to his next wife.
The young Hamar men have to jump over a row of cows in order to reach adulthood, to marry and to own sheep. Those who refuse or fail will be scorned, so they have to lose their fears and just take the big leap to achieve their goal. Just like us, business nomads.