The significance of Lip plates to Suri and Mursi tribes of Ethiopia
| ByGilad Mizrahi
How far would you go to look good? Piercing your nose, tongue or lip with pin is
considered insane to some society, but when you come to girls of Mursi tribe,
you would have to cut your lower lip, and stretch it to fit 10 centimeter
diameter clay or wood plate.
The Suri and Mursi are part of ethnic groups residing in lower Omo valley bounded by the Omo river in Ethiopia, they are one of the few vanishing tribes who still maintain practicing the ancestral tradition.
One of the distinctive features that this society follow amongst other fascinating traditions is the:
The custom is when a Mursi girl reaches the age of puberty, she will have her lower lip cut by her mother and a small stick inserted, then the wooden plug will hold the lip in place after incision and
allows to heal.
Over the next few years, this gap progressively stretches, and as the lip stretches, it is replaced with larger lip plate, it is up to the girl to decide the extent of stretch. Some of the tribal girls may have lip plates with the diameter of 12 centimeter or even more.
The Lip Plate can be made of wood or clay. The wooden plate made only by men are said to be the most beautiful lip plate worn by unmarried women though it is nowadays considered less fashionable among the Mursi's. Clay is frequently used and is fashionable, customized to desired styles mainly in four different colors - red, reddish brown, black and white.
The significance of LIP PLATE among Mursi tribe
The Mursi's explain the following cultural importance apart from being a decorative item
1 BRIDE WEALTH
The lip plate determines the amount of the bride wealth, the bigger the plate is, the more the number of cattle given as bride wealth.
2 SELF PRIDE
The girl who wears a lip plate is considered to represent self esteem, reproductive potential and social adult hood.
The lip-plate serves to remind people of a woman’s commitment to her culture, and above all to her husband. If the husband dies, the lip-plate is thrown way and would never be worn again.
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