The Hamer or Hamar live in Ethiopia in the Omo Valley region; the Hamer are easily identifiable thanks to their traditional clothing and hairstyles, and also thanks to the body modification they still practice today.

The Hamar are a population of farmers and breeders and still live following a traditional lifestyle, linked to the rituals and celebrations that have been handed down for generations.

Their clothing is mainly traditional, most men wear only a kind of short skirt and a cloth on their shoulders, while women wear goat leather skirts embroidered with beads and cowrie shells.

The Hamer pay great attention to their appearance in particular to hairstyles that, in addition to being an aesthetic element, are also a characteristic for identifying the marital status of a woman or the value of a man.

The Hamer men in fact cut their hair creating a sort of cap with clay and plaster, this particular hairstyle in the past was reserved for those who had killed an enemy or a dangerous animal; to make this complicated hairstyle, the Hamer take up to three days of work, sometimes they also add natural, yellow or red color, obtained using some local stones, or feathers, to increase their beauty.

The hairstyle thus obtained is spectacular and particularly resistant, in fact it lasts several months and men use a sort of wooden cushion, that also acts as a stool, to avoid the contact of the hairstyle with the ground during sleep.

Married women use to style their hair in a braid bob, made red thanks to a mixture obtained with water, fat or butter and red ocher; these braids are called goscha and, in addition to indicating that a woman is married, they also indicate health and well-being and are a decorative element of beauty.

Hamer girls who are still single can style their hair as they prefer, they can keep it short or long, ocher or black and sometimes use extensions that are made with horsehair or donkey hair.

To identify the social status of a woman there is also another element that all Hamer women use and wear: these are heavy metal and leather necklaces that encircle the neck of women: the first wife wears a necklace called bignere that has a large protruding cylinder and, if the husband has married other women, he will also wear another necklace for each other wife.

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These necklaces are never removed and become a kind of body modification.

Unmarried young girls in the past wore a kind of oval metal plate that resembled a sun visor, but now this custom is less and less practiced.

A girl belonging to the Hamar tribe not yet married but promised as a bride wears a dik dik leather necklace, this means that her family has found a husband even if she still does not know who is going to be her future husband.

Like many populations inhabiting the Omo Valley, the Hamer men also have a long tradition of practicing scarification.

Elaborate designs are made by cutting the skin of the back, shoulders and, sometimes, also of the abdomen; scars create more or less extensive geometric patterns.

The Hamer women, on the other hand, have large scars on their backs, but they are not due to scarification rituals, instead they derive from the lashes that they voluntarily receive on the occasion of the jump of the bull ceremony.

The lashes that women receive are a sign of their devotion to their family and a sort of credit towards men that women can redeem in times of difficulty.

The wounds caused by these lashes are deep and the signs that derive from them are large and very thick; women are proud of the signs they bring because they represent their courage and pride in belonging to a clan.

hamer hamar girl ethiopia