Initiation ceremony – Bull jumping.
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Initiation ceremony – Bull jumping.
We traveled in southern Ethiopia, in the Omo valley, in the country of the Hummer tribe. We visited markets, towns and tourist villages, where tribal people present their huts, costumes and lifestyle, and collect photo fees from the visitors.
One morning there was a rumor that there would be a bull jumping ceremony in the afternoon. We did not want to miss an opportunity to witness an authentic and famous ceremony. We crossed a desolate plain on dirt roads and reached a large square. At first glance we saw masses of people, members of the Hummer tribe in their typical costumes, masses of tourists armed with cameras and lots of parked SUVs. We joined the crowd and began to photograph in all directions, without knowing or understanding what was going to happen, who are the participants and how it will ended.
Since this event was once in a lifetime for me and was expected to last a short time, I chose a vertical position for the bulls' line when my back to the sun.
I knew that I'll not able to investigate the event on time and place, so I retrospectively examined the pictures I had taken, tried to understand what had happened and identify the characters, the boy who jumped, his brother and his mother. At first I recognized the boy who jumped, and with his help I recognized his mother and his brother who had clung to him after the jumping.
Finally I was bothered by one question: was the play authentic or a tourist show again?
Thinking back, I think that the ceremony was authentic for two reasons.
The first reason: I saw the tension and excitement on the face of the boy and his brother and the concern of the mother, who tried to be close to the events and calmed only after she had re-accepted her son for her protection.
The second reason, main reason: They didn't charge us any fees...
Description of the Photos:
1. The excited boy merges with the herd for his relaxation.
2. The leader of the women with bells at her feet revolves around the herd and sings and calms the animals.
3. The riot of God during the seizure of oxen required for the ceremony.
4. The worried mother reviews the "jump route" after completion of its arrangement.
5-7. The boy leaps on the oxen and runs on their backs
8. The boy completes his mission successfully under the care of his worried mother and the leader of the women.
(Note the deep scars and open wounds in the women's back, which are "love wounds." In their culture, it is customary for a husband to whip his wife's back to the point of blood to show his love. The women proudly display their wounds!
"Three are more wonderful than me and four are not known, through an eagle in the sky through a snake on the leaves of Tire, through a ship at sea and through a man in a damsel" (Proverbs 30:18))
9. The worried mother is holding the hand of the boy who successfully completed his mission, but he wants to exchange experiences with his brother (in front of the picture, his back to the camera).
10. The two brothers remain alone in the field, exchanging experiences and watching the tribesmen returning to their village.
Description of the ceremony:
We saw all guests and locals stood in a large circle. In the middle was a dense herd of cows and bulls. A group of women were arranging their uniforms and jewelry, wearing bell rings on their feet and began to surround the herd in song. The bells were ring, apparent to calm the herd.
Suddenly there was a commotion: the locals cleared the square, the men began to struggle with the herd, and they grabbed the oxen that were chosen to serve as the jumping-off route. The animals ran in all directions, endangering the circle of tourists, aroused dust and terror.
At last a line of bulls were standing parallel to each other, with their horns and tails holds by stout and decorated men. The circle was widened and cleared away from the locals and the enthusiastic photographers.
Suddenly a naked boy came out of the crowd, his brown body stout and muscular, running toward the line of bulls, leaping towards it and running over the bulls, waving his hands to keep his balance on the unstable bulls. So he did three times, back and forth. I chose to take pictures at a wide angle first to understand what was going on, and in the end I narrowed the angle to catch him as close as possible.