Hamer Women: femmininity in a handful of red earth
Hamer women represent a minority group, as many others in the world that put itself through practices and habits strange and particular. Customs and traditions of women in the world, often amaze and impress who does not belong to that culture. They might be somewhat strange and perhaps incomprehensible to us, but for those people they are really special rituals , essential and they have important symbolic values.
Let’s observe together some “strange” traditions in the world, expecially those ones concerning the meaning women give to their beauty, their ornaments, their clothes.
The Hamer’s Tribe Women
The Hamer tribe lives in Ethiopia along the OMO river. Women who belong to this group have very elaborated hairstyles and it takes a long time to get them: they divide their hair into many small locks which are rolled up forming many long strings. They fix them ( as we do with the spry lacquer) with the red earth of fields, and then they dry them in the sun.
The style that all adopt is that of a classic fringe bob, the only differences accepted by the group is the length of the bob and of the fringe.
They mainly use necklace made of seashells or beads, but metal collars are the ornaments they are used to wear to adorn themselves and to indicate their social position, too.
Smooth neck collars may be more than one, but only a woman in a family has a collar with a ledge on the front. That kind of collar means that woman is the first wife (Hamars practice polygamy) and that she is the most powerful woman in the family.
Their dress is a simple leather or fabric sarong, gathered at the waist with belts embellished with glass beads or shells; very tight bands or metal rings adorn their arms, too.
The most festive and most famous events of the tribe occur when a teenager enters adulthood and he must measure himself with a test of balance and agility that consists in bull jumping .
The guy, completely naked, has to jump on a bull and run on the back of other 8 bulls, next to each other, then he must repeat the feat 4 times without falling and without stopping. After this trial he will be accepted as an adult and he will be able to marry and have kids.
During this ceremony, women dance, jump, cry out, and sound horns, challenging those men which shake some thin twigs as if they were shields; in this way they seek bloodshed whips which are readily arranged on their back.
The wounds are then covered with ash, so that during healing, conspicuous reliefs are formed on the skin.
These numerous scars are greatly appreciated by the men and society’s notables who attribute to the great number of lashes they have taken, a greater prestige , thus recognizing the women’s strength, courage and devotion to the traditions of the group.
The Hamer women are very proud of their back, while to us certainly all this seems to be atrocious, also because we consider that in addition to the suffering with which these wounds are produced, it is very dangerous to health; all this then contrasts with the beauty of their bodies, bobs and ornaments.
Despite all this Hamer women attract us for their proud posture, and their beauty made of nothing: a bath of red earth , some shells, a bob with a perfect cut and a small sarong… an amazing mix of femininity.