1BlessedNatural Spotlight: Mursi Tribe Women's Ear and Lip Stretching

Mursi woman (photo courtesy of Flickr- "Rod Waddington" under the Creative Commons License)
 The young woman's hairstyle appears to be in small locs. The sides of her head are shaven. The Mursi people are known to have little or no hair on their heads. They often wear decorative headdresses. Similiarly, African-Americans often wear headbands, accessories, and locs.

The woman in the photo above is from the Mursi Tribe in Ethiopia. The Mursi people are known for their practices including lip and ear stretching. Both practices are also practiced by African-Americans and other people around the world, but the Mursi people seem to draw the most attention because of the size of their piercings.

In the Mursi tribe, lip stretchings are done for beauty. It also indicates a rite of passage from girl to womanhood. Around ages 15 or 16 (before marriage), the girl's lip is pierced by her mother. The piercing is held open by a wooden peg until it heals. Afterwards, the wooden peg is replaced with a slightly larger plate. Larger plates are used to gradually stretch the piercing over time.

Mursi Tribe Lip Plate (photo courtesy of Flickr - "Rod Waddington" under the Creative Commons License)

In addition, the young woman's ears are stretched. The Mursi men also participate in the practice. The stretching of the ears in the tribe by men indicates social status. The size of the plate reveals the rank or authority of the member in the tribe.

I think it's interesting to see that African-Americans and other people practice piercing their ears and lips. My own ears are pierced. Unlike the Mursi, mine are only for decoration. In the United States, parents often get their newborn baby girls' ears pierced for the same reason. 

Although ear and lip stretching is practiced around the world, the Mursi have become well known for them. I remember being a young girl and seeing pictures of the Mursi women on the cover of National Geographic with their lips stretched by a discs. It shows that every culture has their own standards of beauty.

"Stretched" (photo courtesy of Sarah Kolb-Williams under the Creative Commons License)

If you could ask a Mursi women one thing, what would it be?

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