Hamer Bull Jumping Ceremony - Ethiopia

Anthea Spivey


Ethiopia; Turmi, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region, Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a country I have always been mesmerised by. The rich culture and history is what sparked my interest in visiting. I had been traveling in the south of the country for about a week, photographing tribal cultures in the Omo Valley when I decided to head to Turmi.

Turmi is a relatively small town located in the Southern nations region of Ethiopia. The biggest tribe it is home to is the Hamer peoples.

I had done my research and was fortunate enough to be allowed to watch and photograph a traditional bull jumping ceremony to which I was told does not happen all that often, but it is the rite of passage for a young man about to enter adulthood.

The event itself was something to marvel at. I wanted to have a focus on the women who are apart of the ceremony itself. The maybe 25 women of all ages who participate in jumping and chanting together in unison to show their enthusiasm for the event that is to take place. The women who almost preform or put on a show to show their support for the young man who will become a man that day. The energy was incredible and I wanted to capture that through my images.

The difficult part, however, was watching women be whipped by a man they call the 'seeker'. It is his job to whip only the women with a tall and quite agile stick. I understood at this point that I had stepped foot in a community where this is tradition and not to take it in a way where I should feel the need to judge for any reason. The women wear their lash marks with pride and honour. They want to be whipped. They would even go back to ask for more. I found this deeply interesting and wanted to show the images I took of the women's bodies not in a negative way but in a way where they can be seen as beautiful or art.

The bull jumping ceremony itself is about family. How all of these people came out to show their love and devotion for a young boy about to become a man.

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