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Tribe ritual: Mursi, lip plate (chapter 1)

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Published on Mar 3, 2012

How are Lip Plates Inserted?

This tradition is customarily performed between 6 months and a year before a young girl is to marry, usually around the age of sweet sixteen.

During initiation rituals of young Mursi girls a small incision of between 1 and 2cm in length is made in their lower lip. This ritual is usually performed by their mother or their kinswomen.

A wooden peg or ceramic disc is placed in the incision and this remains there for approximately 3 weeks or until the wound has healed. The peg is then replaced with a slightly larger disc thereby stretching the lip gradually. This stretching process will continue until the lip has an opening of about 4cm in diameter. At this point the first clay lip plate will be inserted.

To accommodate the lip plate at least two and sometimes four lower front teeth are extracted.

Each woman crafts her own lip plate and decorates each one with pride. The stretching process using larger and larger lip plates will continue until on average a lip plate with a diameter of about 10 to 15 cm will fit into the lower lip. There are reports of some women who boast lip plates that are 25cm in diameter, though this is not the norm. This entire stretching process usually takes a few months to complete.

Because lip plugs make talking difficult, women only wear their lip plugs in the company of men, but they remove them to eat and sleep or when they are only in the company of women.

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