Meet The Beauty Queens of Surma Tribe

The People of Surma tribe are found in Southern Sudan as well as Southwestern Ethiopia.

During teenage years, females undergo the lip stretching procedure which involves removing their lower teeth to accommodate a lip plate; the lip plate is increased in size yearly until it is an astounding size.

Some of the men do this similar exercise with their ears. They also indoctrinate their warriors known as ‘stick fighters’ by inflicting scars on them, the belief is that the more scars they have, the more attractive they are to female members of the tribe

Girl’s lower lip is cut (sometimes by her mother) when she reaches 15 or 16, and held open by a sodden plug until it heals. It’s up to the girls how far they want the lip to be stretched. The very painful process often takes over several months.

Lip plates are more frequently worn by unmarried girls and newlywed women than by older married women with children. They are generally worn on occasions such as serving men food, milking cows, and important rituals like weddings.

Single girls, especially those with large labrets, might wear them whenever they are in public. It’s expected that a boyfriend or husband will not sleep with his girlfriend or his bride until her lip has fully healed.

However, modern men are increasingly sleeping with their love interests even before they have pierced their lips.

The lip plate carries a number of meanings.

Firstly, it’s a symbol of great beauty.

Secondly, it marks a commitment to the husband because it is worn with great pride when serving him food.

If the husband dies, the lip plate is removed since a woman’s external beauty is said to fade after his death. Lastly, the plate is a powerful visual marker of Mursi identity.

Without it, they run the risk of being mistaken for a member of another tribe.

Titilayo Kupoliyi

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