The Mursi are one of the most remote peoples in Ethiopia and live rather autonomous of the government. They lived isolated from the rest of the world and had never heard of Ethiopia till a British antropologist visited them in 1970.
They alternate in hostile and peaceful relations with their neighbours, the Banna and the Bodi people. Cattle raiding is part of their life as means of survival in a harsh environment.
In these days the Mursi warriors are not wearing only knives anymore, but guns. They were very eager to show us proudly their AK 47s or kalashnikovs.
Mursi woman, showing her scars
This Mursi woman was very eager and persuasive to show the skars at her shoulder. She followed me, grabbed at my arm and even blocked my way. At the end I admitted, took my camera out of my pocket and paid her the asked one birr.
Many of the tribes in the Omo Region have marks and scars on their back. Scarification can be achieved by using a knife or razor blade. Then ash is rubbed into the wound,creating a small infection and promoting the growing of the scar. After healing the desired knobbly effect on the skin will appear. The more and thicker the scars at their arms and back, the more respected and desirable they are.
This Mursi woman didn't wear her lipplate and just hung her perforated underlip. So many women do, when there are no men or visitors around or when they eat.
Not only the girls, but also the Mursi boys like to decorate and ornament themselves abundantly by unique face and body paintings They were wearing sticks and peculiar jewelry, made of metal and horns.
Some boys were wearing plugs in their ears to elongate their lobes.
The Mursi are survivors, whose isolated location combined with crises of drought, war, migration, famine and epedemic diseases has shaped their unique identity.
Mursi, women wearing lipplates
The Mursi girls start to pierce their lower lip at the age of 15 or 16, so she can wear a plate. The larger the plate, the higher the bride price will be, up to 20 or 40 cows by very large plates. That's why some girls marry very young to lower the price for the family of the husband.
Anthropologists have several theories about the tradition of the lipplates.
The larger the plate the higher the social status will be, also determining the bride price.
At one side the lipplates and face markings are considered as signs of beauty.
At the other side ther is said, that they orginally had to make the girls and women undesirable for the slave-trade. Especially, when they don't wear the plates, the lowerlip dangle from their mouth.
Some women and boys also wear plugs or plates in their ears to elongate the lobes.
Visit to a Mursi village
After a drive of more than 3 hours from Jinka along a bumpy track through the mountains and the hot plains, we reached the Mursi village. To enter a Mursi village, it usual to pay an admission fee for each car. The money is used for the community.
The most known traditions of the Mursi are the lipplates worn by the women and the fierce stick fighting by the men. We were very curious what we would see and experience.
Also because our guide, who stayed in Jinka, told us, that the Mursi women felt very free to approach you, or even to hold or pinch your arms. He warned even about the possibility of kidnapping and barricades by the men, at the moment you want to leave the village or area.
- Arts and Culture
- National/State Park