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Traditional lipplate

The Mursi, Chai and Tirma are probably the last groups in Africa amongst whom it is still the norm for women to wear large pottery or wooden discs or plates in their lower lips. The lip-plate 'dhebi a tugoin' has become the chief visible distinguishing characteristic of the Mursi and made them a prime attraction for tourists. A girls lower lip is cut, by her mother or by another woman of her settlement, when she reaches the age of fifteen or sixteen. The cut is held open by a wooden plug until the wound heals. 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 twelve centimetres or more in diameter.

It is often claimed that the size of the lip plate is correlated with the size of a woman's bridewealth. This is not born out by the fact that the marriages of many girls have already been arranged, and the amount of bridewealth to be paid by their husbands' families has already been decided, before their lips are cut.
Omo Valley, Ethiopia.
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Mursi tribeIngetje TadrosOmo ValleyEthiopiatribestribalMursitraditionsculturetourismtravellip platelipmarriageattractionbizarlower lipbridewealthAfricatribal womancommunity