The Mursi tribe are an African tribe from the isolated Omo Valley in Southern Ethiopia near the border with Sudan. There are an estimated 10,000 members of this beautiful, sedentary tribe, body and face decorations are a source of endless fascination. Long may they, and their wonderful culture live on.
How do we spot girls around us are getting into their childbearing age? We actually don’t. This is why there are so many cases of guys being sued for sex with girls underage. Once, all girls start looking older than they actually are, especially with those overly sexualizing outfits that are so popular nowadays. This is why guys are getting into troubles trying to find their partners for life or one night stand. Here is where we start envying Mursi.
These guys have invented their own way of detecting who is who in the tribe. Every girl has to come through a ritual as soon as she reaches her procreative age (usually 15-16 years). Older family member (mom or another older woman of the tribe) takes her away to cut her lower lip apart. Sometimes this procedure is done to both lips. The cut is held open by a wooden plug until the wound heals. If you saw those insanely popular gauged ears – you should now realize that is not the worst place for plates. Mursi girls receive plates in their lips to demonstrate they are ready for marriage and childbirth. And it is up to a girl to decide how far she wants to stretch it. Mostly, girls don’t stop until their lips can take plates of 12 centimeters or more in diameter.
These lip plates can tell a lot about the woman wearing them: how rich she is or how big is her ‘hope chest’. Together with it, such lip plates are used to demonstrate how wealthy the tribe is. These ‘saucers’ are traditionally made of the same material as their regular dishes and plates. This tradition is a few thousand years old. Archeologists keep finding lip plates that belong to tribe members who died ages ago.
For all these years women kept competing about the size. The bigger is this lip plate – the richer is the girl. There were cases when such plates reached 40 centimeters in diameter. But that hole in the lip is not the worst thing at all. If you look closer at their photos – you will realize that girls have to get rid of 4 lower teeth in order to install that plate. Taking into consideration Mursi’s lack of medicine – that is a ton of pain and a threat of catching an infection.
Here’s how the lip looks after plate removal. Ugly and stretched with no chance of bringing it back to normal condition. So, why are they keeping doing that to their women? It turns out that Mursi have boosted their income thanks to the interest of tourists to the way their women look. Those ‘saucers’ differ them from all other African tribes. Tourists are ready to pay to see them close.