1st photo by gusjer via Flickr
2nd phot by * hiro008 via Flickr
LIP PLATE - body modification extraordinnaire
Although there are many independent cultures who have at some point donned lip plates, there is only one remaining tribe that still actively practices lip stretching: the Mursi tribe in Ethiopia.
According to tradition, six months to a year before a girl is to be married, a small incision is made in the middle of her bottom lip and a stick is put in. Slowly over time, larger disks are inserted until her lip is stretched big enough to be used for a basketball hoop. In addition, many girls have their two lower teeth knocked out to accommodate the huge plate. Rationale behind this practice is unclear to anthropologists. Other than the inherent disfigurement and pain, many Mursi women have trouble speaking normally and often drool since they essentially have no lip or teeth on the bottom of their mouth. One Darwinian-ish theory is that the practice was started so women could prove their strength, and therefore worth, as wives and mothers. The bigger the lip plate, the more physical strife the woman is able to withstand, and the stronger she’ll be as a partner to her husband. Although there are many unknowns about lip plates, one thing is for sure: Mursi men seem to love it. For the women of this tribe, getting a lip plate is the only hope they have for a decent marriage: the bigger the lip, the more desirable a woman is, and the more cattle the groom’s family has to “trade” for him to get a wife. Along with limited marriage potential if they chose a life sans lip plate, Mursi women also face added pressure from the outside world to continue with the practice.
Currently the Mursi struggle to survive economically and face drought and worsening agricultural conditions. Ironically, their lip plates and reputation as an “untouched” African people have led to an exceptional amount of tourism in their home in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia and are currently helping to sustain the Mursi financially.
Add to cultural/tourism practices I don’t understand.