The first lady I saw with THE hairdo that was so beautiful. Her skin was so soft and supple and her hair was red. But it was not her natural hair color because the red hair was caused by red ochre which is the haute couture of hair styles among the Omo Valley Ethiopia tribes of Hamer, Karo, Bome, and Gurage that I saw. And Daniel Tesfaye of Kibran Tours of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia took us there and did an A+ job for us.
The red ochre comes from red rocks that are sanded to yield a fine powder. I saw ladies selling it in the Hamer Market in Turmi, Ethiopia and touched the red powder. Instantly, my fingers were red causing me to wonder if this is used in ladies cosmetics all over the world. Mixed with water, the red mineral dye is placed on the hair after it is styled.
Several styles exist among the ladies, from short and twisted into balls all over the top of the head, to hair braided from the crown of the head into very tiny braids that hang down and cover the head like a cap. Then, there is the variation where the tiny braids hang down from the crown and hang to the shoulder and over the forehead to eye level.
These hair styles are then coated with the wet mud-like red ochre and then allowed to dry. The ladies are so beautiful when the henna is wet and they are beautiful when it is dry. After it is applied, the dripping starts and it runs all over their neck, chest and face. But most of them leave it where it drips whether on the chest, neck or those many beautiful necklaces. The drippings, however, are wiped from the face, leaving an inch of henna on the skin at the hairline.
The ochre can be applied over and over, layer upon layer. And when it dries, it becomes a dull red and can flake off, depending on how many layers have been applied. In the end, the henna washes out when the ladies wash their hair in the river.
The men’s hair style is even more unusual. A 6 inch-mud-like compound is placed at crown of the head on top of the short hair like a little cap. To get color, red ochre is put on top of this. Then all is allowed to dry and when it does, it cracks and starts to fall off. Ostrich features are then added with the eye-catching black balls on top of the head made of tiny black ostrich feathers.
But what I didn’t find out was how they scratch their head with all these wet or dried coverings on it.