Hamar

Hamar who positioned themselves between the Hamitic races (like the Borena and the Konso) and the Nilotic People- because they live in the environs of the great Nile River are subsistence agro-pastoralists with a total population of about over 35,000.

 

They inhabit the savannahs lands interspersed with patches of dense bush.
The Hamar are neighbored to the south by Geleb ,to the North by Benna and Bashada,to the east by Erbore and Tsemai,to south east the territory stretches across the plains of the Lower Omo to Chew Bahir (Also Known as Lake Stephanie) and to the west by Bume and Karo. The have a special relationship with Benna-Bashada group than the others as they share a common language and culture.
Although beekeeping and honey collection is a well-known activity among the Hamar, their herds - especially their cattle - are the focus of their culture and of their socioeconomic life. Even their vocabulary reflects this concern: there are at least twenty-seven words for the subtle variations of colour and texture of cattle - and every Hamar man has several names, including a goat name and a cow name.
The Hamars have their own wide spread beliefs,their own markets , decorations and ornamentations and their bull jumping ceremonies together with Evangadi dance are objects of tourist focus.
 

 

Their Beliefs
Among the people of Hamar there is a belief that evil and bad luck exist in certain unholy or impure things, which are the causes of some unfortunate and disastrous circumstances like drought and epidemics on the larger community. Twins, a child born outside of formal marriages, and children whose upper milk teeth grow before their lower ones, are considered to possess mingi (abnormality, pollution, unclean) and, for this reason, they are thrown into the forest to die. Hamar parents would rather lose a child than risk crop failure, drought, or ill health in the family.
 

Market
The weekly markets in Turmi and Dimeka are meeting points, not only for the Hamar, but also for the neighboring people. In Turmi the market day lies on Mondays while in Dimeka the market day lies on Saturday and Tuesday. Items of merchandise include fruits, honey, butter, milk, sorghum, millet,coffee, and coffee cover (often called Shoforo), red clay soil, beads, cowry shells, pottery, goats, head rest (called Berkotta ) and beautiful incised gourds. Omo valley market places, including that of the Hamar, are best for tourist observation and photography because these places are platforms where one can view aggregation of different people with various cultures, costumes, hairstyles and decorations.
 

Bull Jumping
The Hamar have evolved a sophisticated age-grading system characterized by intervallic "rites of passage" which celebrate transitions from one age grade to the next. Circumcision which occurs when a child or young man has lost his milk teeth , and the "leap over the bulls"-symbol for a social jump from boy hood to adult hood.
Bull Jumping ceremony (Ukuli Bula) is the most dramatic and significant ritual, which represent a life-changing event for the young man (Ukuli) who passes from boyhood to early adulthood. First the boy to be initiated delivers invitations to his neighbors in the form of blade of dried grass knotted in several places. These knots are a calendar of days and each day the guest must untie one of the knots until the day of the ceremony arrives. The novice also carries with him a carved wooden phallus known as the bokko, which he hands to girls he meets along the way; they must kiss it three times as a form of blessing and then return it to him.
Each young man undergoes an individual ceremony. On the first day several hundred guests gather, among them the maz (who are still single and have recently gone through the ceremony) who arrive in a long line decorated with feathers, necklaces, and bracelets and carrying long thin, flexible branches which will be used as whips. They participate in a coffee-drinking ceremony, which is regarded as a blessing.
Their main responsibility is to help the initiate during the rituals of preparation prior to jumping, but they are also mandated to participate with him in various ways in the initiation ceremony itself. An early task, for which only the maz are ritually qualified, involves whipping the novice's young female relatives. The young women of the Ukuli family, highly decorated, their hair and bodies covered with grease (usually butter ),dancing and singing in circles, beg to be chastised by the Maz since in this way they can demonstrate the strength of their devotion to the boy. The more abundant and extensive the scars, the deeper the girls' affection to the boy who is about to become a man.
On the day of the initiation itself, the maz are charged with the important job of steadying the cattle over which the novice must jump. Late in the afternoon, they line up some beasts side by side, one holding the head and another the tail of each animal and hold them closely together in a specially chosen area which has a clearly marked symbolic entrance at one end and an equally clearly marked exit at the other. The most recently initiated Maz greased with oil and charcoal circles the animals. The ukuli then brought in, totally naked , his arms pinioned by two of the maz. When they release him, he runs speedily towards the cattle, jumps onto the back of the first cow and then runs across all the remaining animals. At the far end of the line he jumps down, turns around, then leaps back up again and repeats the routine in the other direction. Altogether he makes four runs and finally - if everything has gone well - the maz lead him out through the exit along with wild dancing and excitement.
For the Ukuli to fall during the jumping is considered bad luck - and for this reason, great efforts are made by the maz to keep the cattle still. A single fall incurs no penalty and is blamed on the movement of the animals. Any boy who fails to complete his four runs, however, will be publicly humiliated: he will be whipped by his female relatives in the middle of the initiation ground and thereafter, for the rest of his life, he will be teased, insulted and beaten by both men and women. Understandably, few novices allow themselves to fail in this way.
After he has satisfactorily "jumped the bull", the Ukuli is considered to have put aside childish things and is allowed to join the maz - thus taking a vital step forward on the road to full adult status. In this intensely conservative society, true manhood is thought to come slowly. Indeed, the Hamar say that maturity is only reached when the heart moves into the eyes - that is, when the eyes see with the heart.
Bull Jumping Ceremony is usually held from mid - July to first half of December. The ceremony lasts the whole day, but the most spectacular part of it begins in the afternoon.


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