African Culture: Meet Hamar people, a tribe where women are brutally flogged as a symbol of love for marriage

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Tuesday, 14 March 2023 - 11:54

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Hamar people; also spelt as Hamer, are a community inhabiting southwestern Ethiopia with a total population of 46,532. They live in Hamer woreda a fertile part of the Omo River valley, in the Debub Omo Zone of the Southern Nations.

African Culture: Meet Hamar People, a tribe where women are brutally flogged as a symbol of love for marriage

They are largely pastoralists, so their culture places a high value on cattle. They speak the language called Hamer and practice Animism religion.

The Hamar people are known for their unique custom of “bull jumping,” which initiates a boy into manhood. First, female relatives dance and invite whipping from men who have recently been initiated; this shows their support of the initiate, and their scars give them a say on who they marry.

African Culture: Meet Hamar people, a tribe where women are brutally flogged as a symbol of love for marriage

In the tradition known as Ukuli Bula, women are whipped as part of a Rite-of-Passage ceremony for boys, where female family members declare their love for a young man at the heart of the celebration. The boy is then allowed to marry since the ceremony makes him a man.

African Culture: Meet Hamar people, a tribe where women are brutally flogged as a symbol of love for marriage

A key element of the ceremony is the whipping of young women who are family members or relatives of the boy undertaking the Rite-of-Passage.

The women trumpet and sing, extolling the virtues of the Jumper, declaring their love for him and for their desire to be marked by the whip.

African Culture: Meet Hamar people, a tribe where women are brutally flogged as a symbol of love for marriage

The women instead of fleeing beg men to whip them again during the ceremony held in the Omo River Valley, once whipped, the girls proudly show off their scars as a proof of their courage and integrity. Some whipping appears to be tender, others more fierce.

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Watch a clip of the Hamer tribe below:

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They coat their bodies with butter to lessen the effect of the whipping which is only carried out by Maza – those who have already undergone this Rite-of-Passage

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