The Hamar have very unique rituals such as a bull-leaping ceremony, that a young man has to succeed in order to get married. A Hamar man comes of age by leaping over a line of cattle as an initiation rite of passage. It’s the ceremony which qualifies him to marry, own cattle and have children. The timing of the ceremony is up to the man’s parents and happens after harvest. Cows are lined up in a row. The initiate, naked, has to leap on the back of the first cow, then from one bull to another, until he finally reaches the end of the row. He must not fall off and must repeat successfully the test four times to have the right to become a husband.
On the afternoon of the leap, the man’s female relatives demand to be whipped as part of the ceremony. The girls go out to meet the Maza, the ones who will whip them. The Maza are a group of men who have already leapt across the cattle, and live apart from the rest of the tribe, moving from ceremony to ceremony. The whipping appears to be consensual; the girls gather round and beg to be whipped on their backs. They don’t show the pain and they say they’re proud of the scars. They would look down on a woman who refuses to join in, but young girls are discouraged from getting whipped.
Omo Valley, Southern Ethiopia, 2013.
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