Monday, June 7, 2010

Young Mursi Girl, Body Paint, Ear Modification, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, March, 2010

Out of all the communities we run across in the Lower Omo Valley, the Mursi Tribe seem to attract the most tourists.

The lip plates? Can it be the way they modify their earlobes? Maybe the fact that they live in a national park? Does body paint have anything to do with it? Do raised patterns on their skin catch the tourists' attention?

With the exception of the lip modification, this young girl has it all. She belongs to the Mursi Community, lives in a national park, adorns herself with wonderful images and boasts beautiful raised patterns on her shoulders as well.

She is however different in that she is missing an opening in her lower lip for the placement of a lip plate. She is near the age when such is done, as a transition to womanhood. Wearing a lip plate is associated with fertility and eligibility for marriage, a sign of sexual maturity.

This is all missing above; or is she perhaps signaling a change in her culture, in the mindset of her people?
According to some accounts, the influence of mainstream Ethiopian culture as well as the introduction of tourists have perhaps challenged internal perceptions regarding this practice.

While older women and men view the lip plate as a transition to womanhood, a certain portion of the younger generation is aware that this practice is seen as 'backward' by the state. While the older generation considers the absence of a lip plate as a sign of weakness, awkwardness and a general lack of grace, the younger generation at times sees it as a transition to the 'modern world.'

A most intriguing article regarding this phenomena is included here for your review.

As for this young Mursi girl, she stands above with strength and balance; she holds herself with a grace that few can rival.

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