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Lip Plate

This is Nataere a young women from the Mursi tribe.
This is Nataere a young women from the Mursi tribe.

This is Nataere a young women from the Mursi tribe. Women from the Mursi tribe may have their lips cut at the age of 15 or 16. A small clay plate is then inserted into the lip. Through the years, larger plates are inserted into the lip causing it to stretch. The larger the clay plate, the more the woman is worth before she gets married. It is said that the clay plates were originally used to prevent capture by slave traders. 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. It was said that this practice was first carried out to make them look ugly when Arab merchants continually raided their villages in search of slaves. That explanation has been rejected as studies reveal that the plates are a symbol or expression of social status.

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