Hamer bull jumping

The Hammers are a tribal people in the Southern Region Ethiopia. Hammer an isolated people whose traditional lifestyle have been untouched and are largely pastoralists, so their culture places a high value on cattle.

The Hammer have  “rites of passage”  called  Bull Jumping ceremony (Ukuli Bula) which represent a life-changing event for the young man (Ukuli) who passes from boyhood in to adulthood. This rite of passage must be done before a man is permitted to marry. This is a ceremony which determines whether a young Hammer man is ready to make the social jump from immature member of his society to responsibility of marriage and raising a family. Bull Jumping Ceremony is usually held after harvest time, July to March. The ceremony lasts the whole day, but the most spectacular part of it begins in the afternoon after four o’clock.

First the family of the boy to be initiated delivers invitations to their relatives, neighbors and friends in the form of rope made of dried grass knotted (tied) in several equal number of places. The ceremonies end with several days of feasting, including the typical jumping dances, accompanied by sorghum made beer and coffee which the Bull-jumper’s family provides to the guests.

On the day several hundred guests gather, among them the Maza (who are still single and have recently done the bull jumping ceremony) who arrive in a long line decorated with feathers, necklaces, and bracelets and carrying long thin, flexible branches which will be used……

The young women of the Ukuli family with the exception of the mother, come to the ceremony highly decorated, their hair and bodies covered with butter ,dancing, singing , whistling and blowing horn in circles, ……….

The Maza strikes the girl so that the end of the whip hits her on the back.  It is in this way the Hammer women can demonstrate the strength of their devotion to the boy. The more abundant and extensive the bleeding of their back from the whip, the deeper the girls’ affection to the boy who is about to become a man……………..

They line up about 15 cattle side by side, one holding the head and another tail. These cattle are cows and castrated oxen, which represent the women and children of the tribe. The lined cattle are smeared with dung to make them slippery, to make the jumping very challenging…

Dorze peoples

Aside from the dramatic views back to the rift valley lakes near Arbaminch, Chencha is of interest to travelers as the home for the Dorze people, renowned cotton weavers whose tall beehive shaped dwellings are among the most distinctive traditional structures to be seen anywhere in Africa .

The main occupation of the region is subsistence farming and weaving, every Dorze compound surrounded by a smallholding of tobacco, enset and other crops and contains at least one loom which is constantly worked by one or other member of the family.It is, above all, the unique Dorze houses that make Chencha worth a diversion.

These remarkable extended domes measures up to 6 meter, and are entirely made from organic material. Most Dorze houses also have a low frontal extension, used as a reception area. The spacious interior of the huts is centered on a large fire place, used for cooking and to generate heat, and different areas are set apart for sleeping and for smaller livestock. Dorze dwellings are enduring structures, and one hut will generally serve a married couple for a lifetime-when the base of the hut becomes infested by termites or starts to rot, the entire structure can be lifted up and relocated to a close by site.

Konso landscapes and peoples

The Konso live in an isolated region of the basalt hills.  The area is made up of hard rocky slopes.  A Konso village is fortified by a stone wall used as a defensive measure.

Their village is located on hilltops and is split up into communities, with each community having a main hut.  In order to enter a Konso village, you must pass through a gate and a series of alleys.  These paths are part of its security system, keeping the village difficult to access.

They are mixed agriculturists using their dry and infertile lands to grow crops.  Animal dung is used to fertilize the grounds and their most important crop is the sorghum.  Sorghum is used as flour and to make local beer.  Grains, beans, cotton, corn and coffee are also grown by the Konso people.

The erection of stones and poles is part of the Konso tradition.  A generation pole is raised every 18 years, marking the start of a new generation.  The age of a village can be determined by how many poles are standing.  Carved wooden statues are also used to mark the grave of a famous Konso tribal member.  The marker, called a Waga is placed above the grave and smaller statues are then placed around the larger one representing his wives and conquered enemies.

Although the Konso people have many customs dating back hundreds of years, it is not uncommon for them to be seen wearing western clothing.  As newer generations grow, their traditional attire has gradually changed to modern societies.  The Konso is a very interesting tribe to visit on your trip to the lower Omo Valley.

 Musi Tribe

The Mursi people are the most popular in Ethiopia’s Omo Valley.  They are well known for their unique lip plates.  They are settled around the Omo River and in the Mago National Park.  Due to the climate, they move twice a year between the winter and summer months.  They herd cattle and grow crops along the banks of the Omo River.

The Mursi women paint their bodies and face in white.  They also are the ones who wear the lip plates. Women of the Mursi tribe may have their lips cut at the age of 15 or 16.  A small clay plate is then inserted into the lip.  Through the years, larger plates are inserted into the lip causing it to stretch.  The larger the clay plate, the more the woman is worth before she gets married.  It is said that the clay plates were originally used to prevent capture by slave traders.  Although very unique and part of their tradition, the Mursi women only wear the plates for a short time because they are so heavy and Uncomfortable.

Men of the Mursi also use white paint for their bodies and faces.  Just like any other ethnic tribe in the lower valley, the men must pass a test before they can get married.  A Mursi man is given a stick called a Donga and must face one opponent.  The men then battle it out, beating each other with the sticks.

The first fighter to submit loses and the winner is taken by a group of women to determine who he will marry.  Men of the tribe also practice scarification.  Like other tribes, this is the marking of an enemy killed by him.
Although they are known to be aggressive and combative, the Mursi are more than happy to allow you to take pictures of them.  However, they keep count of every picture taken and will charge you for each one.