Mursi Tribe

Beauty redefined – women wearing unique lip plates

Surrounded by mountains and the Omo River on either side, the Mursi (7,500 people) live in the Mago National Park. They are pastoralists and due to the weather, they move twice a year between the winter and summer months. They herd cattle and grow crops along the banks of the Omo River.

Men and women undergo many rites of passage during their lifetime to prove themselves to their tribe, such as ‘thagine’, a violent duel between men. Young unmarried men practice group stick fights and the winner is carried on top of poles to waiting girls, it is the girls who decide who to choose for their husband. Men of the Mursi also use white paint for their bodies and faces.

The Mursi women are renowned for their lip plates. They start from the age of 15 or 16, with a small stick and graduate to large clay plates. The larger the clay plate, the more the woman is worth before she gets married. Although very unique and part of their tradition, the Mursi women only wear the plates for a short time because they are so heavy and uncomfortable. As well as the lip plates, the Mursi have a range of their own adornments, including beaded headdresses, fruit, horns, under skin tattoos, gun shell necklaces and hardware head hangers.

The Mursi are religious, believing there is a force bigger than themselves which materializes in the form of something found in the sky, like a rainbow or a bird.