The Mursi people of Ethiopia and their lip plates

Last Updated on July 5, 2021 by MyGh.Online

When a young lady reaches puberty, her lips are cut, and a wooden plate inserted.

This wooden plate represents an initiation into womanhood. They symbolize womanhood, fertility and they imply that she is ready for marriage.

The process of inserting these wooden plates spans across a period. She starts with little wooden plates and it increases over time.

The plates have symbolic value, a girl who does not wear lip plates is scolded and regarded as lazy. It might lead to less money being paid for her bride price.

Traditionally it is believed that a young lady who does not wear lip plates is considered more vulnerable in the presence of men.

A researcher Shauna LaTosky who lived with the Mursi people interviewed an elderly Mursi woman, and this is what she had she say.

“If she takes food, she will feel ashamed and afraid of the men. She will walk hurriedly, since she has no lip [plate]. She will go quickly to put the food down and will not greet anyone.”

When a woman does not wear lip plates is seen to be disobedient to the customs of the land and is usually flogged by her father and male relatives.

Only young, unmarried, newly wedded women wear lip plates.

It is worn for dances, when serving men food, dueling competitions and ritual events.

When they want to eat, they just remove it.

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