flickr-free-ic3d pan white

Mursi daily wear for the tourists

View large on black

To wear a lip plate, someone must pierce his or her lip, and slowly stretch the hole. Classically, the piercing has been accomplished by cutting into the lip and inserting a small peg, and allowing the piercing to fully heal before installing a slightly larger peg. Stretching a lip to accommodate a lip plate can take time, as the goal is to take advantage of natural tissue elasticity to create a very large hole in the lip which can be filled with a plate made from clay, wood, or metal. Some lip plates take the form of hollow rings, depending on the culture.


The size of a lip plate can vary considerably. Some are relatively small, while others can approach the size of a dinner plate. Although a number of theories about the different sizes worn have been posited, the most likely explanation has to do with the individual elasticity of the wearer. Some people are capable of stretching their lips much more than others, and all people are forced to stop stretching at a certain point.


Lip plates can be worn in the upper, lower, or both lips. Both men and women have historically worn lip plates, with many people crafting their own. African women in the Mursi tribe, a tribe famous for its lip plates, decorate their lip plates, turning them into complex works of art which are meant to reflect the personality of the owner. The Mursi are in fact so famous for their lip stretching that some people in the West refer to a lip plate as a Mursi.


Among tribal peoples, the lip plate is designed as a personal ornamentation, and sometimes the lip plate also has religious or social connotations. For example, Suri women historically started stretching for a lip plate at the time of marriage. In the Northern Hemisphere, people usually wear lip plates because they find them aesthetically appealing, or because they want to identify with tribal peoples. Some people find this practice distasteful, either because of personal aesthetics or because they dislike cultural appropriation.


13 faves
Taken on January 18, 2010