East AfricaEthiopia

Mursi Women from Ethiopia Wearing Clay Plates as a Sign of Beauty


The Mursi  women are a Surmic pastoralist ethnic group in Ethiopia. They primarily reside in the Debub Omo Zone of the Southern Nations of Ethiopia close to the border with South Sudan.

The Mursi tribe is one of the most people of Ethiopia.  Neighboring villages include Aari, Banna, Bodi, Karo, Kwegu, Nyangatom and Suri. They are grouped together with the Me’en and Suri by the Ethiopian government under the name Surma.

The Mursi speak the Mursi language as a mother tongue. It is classified as Surmic, which is a branch of the Nilo-Saharan language family.


From the stunning images shown below, it is a tradition for women to wear a large clay disc in the bottom lip. When they are 10 years old, Mursi women pierce their ear lobes, and when they are 15, they cut through their lower lips to wear the colorful clay plates they are famous for. They carry these modifications to enhance their physical beauty and seduction skills.

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How The piercing Is Done by Mursi Women


The Mursi women often carve their own patterns and designs into their lip plates, which can vary in size.

Then the cut is plugged with a piece of wood, and once this initial piercing has healed, the girl can begin stretching her lip with clay or wooden discs.

Once healed and stretched, the women suffer no discomfort, and apart from minor effects on her speech, the disc does not impair her health.

Creativity & Seduction Of The Mursi Women

The Mursi are very creative with their ornaments. They also use face and body paint, beads, horns, and scarification. The more ‘decoration’ women use, the more attractive they feel, and the more attractive they actually are to men. This, they believe, is what makes them special and unique in the region which is also home to many other tribes.

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It would be no exaggeration to say that, in the local context, Mursi women are great masters in the art of seduction. In the light of the many gifts which accompany each marriage, unmarried women use as many beauty symbols as possible to attract a potential husband. Unmarried pay attention to beauty, and the value of gifts is not to be taken lightly. Presents include 38 cows and one AK47 gun given to the bride’s family!



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