Move over Amazons, these are the new super women!
The backs of women belonging to Ethiopia’s Hamar tribe are covered with thick scars coloured dull red and black ; a sign of the legacy of an initiation rite that sees them beaten bloody.
No screaming is permitted by the men wielding the canes but the women don’t care. Instead of fleeing, they beg the men to do it again and again until blood flows, dripping into the gritty red dust of the Omo River Valley.
Now the Hamar and their unique culture that merges the beautiful and the brutal in equal measure are the subject of a series of incredible photographs created by French lensman, Eric Lafforgue.
Lafforgue travelled to Ethiopia after spotting pictures of the Hamar in a vintage book and hopes his photos will provide a record of a culture under threat from encroaching modernity.
His striking images reveal the beauty of Hamar women in their orange ochre make-up and bright beads, their skin scarred into intricate patterns using thorns, resilient as they live a life that’s precarious at best and brutal at worst.But not everything about the Hamar is troubling. For the Hamar, cattle are everything, and for the men, they form a key part of the rite that turns them from boy to man.
At cattle jumping ceremonies, young men are required to leap across 15 cows, smeared with dung to make them slippery.
If he fails, he cannot marry and will be beaten by the watching women. At the same ceremony, his female relatives are beaten to create a blood debt between the man and his sisters who show off their scars with pride.Hamar women volunteer to be beaten by ‘Maza’ (initiated men) during their brothers’ coming of age ceremonies. They show off their scars with pride.
‘While the boys walk on cows, Hamar women accompany him: they jump and sing,’ reveals Lafforgue, who witnessed a ceremony.
‘The more abundant and extensive the initiate’s scars are, the deeper the girls’ affection is to the boy who is about to become a man.
‘Totally committed to their initiated sons, the mothers are whipped to blood, in order to prove their courage and accompany their sons during the test.’This Hamar woman shows off her scars, including some recently inflicted ones. The three necklaces reveal that she is a high status first wife
But for Hamar women, beatings are not just part of an initiation ritual – they are daily life until at least two children have been born.
Under Hamar rules, a man need not explain why he’s delivering a beating. It is his prerogative to mete out as he sees fit.
Men can also have more than one wife, with junior wives left to do the lion’s share of the planting and water gathering.Like their men, Hamar women are expected to play a role in protecting the family cattle from rustlers and predatory wildlife
‘They do not have really the choice,’ says Lafforgue. ‘As [with] many women in Africa, they carry water, wood, take care of the food and the kids, while the men take care of the cows – the Hamar treasure.
‘Hamar men can have several wives,’ he adds.’The Hamar women who are not a first wife have a really hard life and they are more slaves than wives.
‘[But] seeing those women with their animal skins, their special hairstyles, and their body covered with this orange make up was fascinating.’Both men and women use orange make-up on their faces and bodies, in the men’s case with white paint in order to create a leopard-like effect
Both men and women have intricate designs carved into their skin using thorns (left) and share a love of colourful jewellery
This Hamar girl’s battered old rifle contrasts starkly with her beauty and spectacular beaded necklace and headbandHamar women are responsible for all domestic duties including fetching water, cooking, cleaning the home and looking after the childrenTwo friends take a break from their back-breaking array of chores and farm work to share a joke and a smile togetherA Hamar woman shows of her carefully braided hair and treasure trove of bright beads, shells and metal bangles
Culled From: DailyMail UK