Living in one of the most isolated regions of Ethiopia, the Mursi tribe, are one of the most fascinating tribes in Africa. Although they have suffered in recent years from extreme drought, which has made herding and cultivation difficult, they still adhere to their traditional and unique culture.
I’m Yakkie your presenter, and I’m excited to bring to you another episode of Wonders of the World on Youth Shades TV. Enjoy!
The Mursi tribe are one of the last remaining tribes in Africa to still wear traditional dress and accessories. The women are famous for their unique headdresses. The Mursi women also wear clay or wooden plates in their lower lips or earlobes. A teenage girl is traditionally pierced when she is about 15, and can then begin stretching her lip.
The Mursi women often carve their own patterns and designs into their lip plates, which can vary in size and often made of clay or wood. Although the initial 3-6 months are no doubt painful for a girl, once the lip has healed (and the Mursi have very good plant based ointments to heal these wounds), there is no pain involved. Apart from minor effects on her speech, the disc does not impair her health.
Some of these amazing photographs were taken by tour operator Evi Aryati Arbay from Jakarta, Indonesia.
There are many theories about the origin of the lip plate tradition. One says that the Mursi men wanted to guard their women by making them unattractive.
For the past few years, young girls have been able to decide for themselves whether to go through with it, rather than have it forced upon them by men. The larger the lip plate, she can tolerate, the more cattle her bride price will bring to her father.
A girl’s lower lip is cut, by her mother or by another woman of her settlement, when she reaches the age of 15 or 16. The cut is held open by a wooden plug until the wound heals, which can take around 3 months. It appears to be up to the individual girl to decide how far to stretch the lip, by inserting progressively larger plugs over a period of several months. Some, but by no means all, girls persevere until their lips can take plates of 12 centimetres or more in diameter.
Many girls marry happily without piercing their lips, even if they sometimes change their minds and decide to go ahead with the process after they have had one or two children.
Tied tightly to fertility and eligibility for marriage, the lip-plate signifies womanhood. The size and type of lip-plates are not only to do with the personal tastes and priorities of specific individuals, but with the size of the lip itself. Some girls’ lips will simply not withstand the long period of stretching, and for fear of it tearing, a girl may either choose not to cut her lip at all, or to stretch it to fit a small clay lip-plate.
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