The process of getting a lip plate is very safe. However, just like piercing an ear, piercing a lip washer is a process where you can easily get an infection.
The lip plates are also called lip discs or lip plugs. Certain processes to get a lip plate hurt, but once it is made to the desired size there is no more pain.
According to tradition, a lip shield is evidence of every woman’s fertility and proof that she is ready for marriage. It is meant to show that a girl has reached marriageable age and is ready to become a woman. Aside from marriage, a woman’s beauty is also determined by the size of her mouth plate.
The incision is held open by a wooden plug until the wound has healed, which can take about 3 months. How far the lip stretches by inserting progressively larger plugs over a period of several months seems to be up to the individual girl.
The custom of wearing a lip plate is linked to women’s fertility and marital capacity. When a Mursi girl reaches puberty (around the age of 15-16), her lip is cut off by a female member of the tribe and a small wooden stick is inserted.
The custom of inserting lip plates, as practiced by the Chai, has implications for women’s speech, as it alters the articulators needed for speech production: the lower lip and lower incisors. Because of the effect of this practice, women cannot produce bilabial and dental consonants in their own language.
“In their culture, they typically remove their lower teeth to allow the lip plate to fit in their mouth. Then their lower lip is pierced and clamped around the lip plate.” To achieve the look but ensure it was only temporary for the actors, Joel’s crew devised their own method.
The initial piercing is made as an incision of 1 to 2 cm in the lower lip and a simple wooden pin is inserted. After the wound has healed, which usually takes between two and three weeks, the pin is replaced with a slightly larger one. With a diameter of approx. 4 cm, the first clay lip plate is used.
The ancient Ethiopians and Nubians, as well as some indigenous peoples in South America all invented lip plates. There are a number of theories as to how lip plating was invented among Africans. One says that it was purposely designed to make women look ugly, to be unattractive to slave robbers.
One theory is that lip plating originated as a deliberate disfigurement to make women and young girls less attractive to slave traders. Some researchers claim that the size of the lip plate (the larger the better) is a sign of social importance or wealth within the tribe.
Lipped plates are typically made of clay or wood and range in size from 4 to 25 centimeters. To be placed on the lip, two or four teeth are removed before the lower lip is trimmed to fit the lip plate. This lip plate process is usually performed by their mother when they reach puberty.
Mursi women are famous for their wooden lip plates – a symbol of beauty and identity. A girl’s lower lip is cut (sometimes by her mother) when she is 15 or 16 and held open by a sodden plug until it heals. It’s up to the girls how far they want to stretch the lip.
Mursi (also Dama, Merdu, Meritu, Murzi, Murzu) is a Southeast Surmian language spoken by the Mursi people who live in the South Omo zone on the east side of the lower Omo valley live southwest Ethiopia. The language is similar to Suri, another Southeast Surmi language spoken in the west of the Mursi-speaking area.
How old is the Mursi tribe? The Ethiopian state assimilated the Mursi lands in the 19th century during the reign of Emperor Menelik II. The history of the Mursi is believed to have started somewhere 150 to 200 years ago and is the product of various nomadic groups.