The Mursi live in the lower Omo valley of southwestern Ethiopia, 100 km north of the Kenyan border.They call themselves Mun (sg. Muni) and number less than 10,000. Over the past few decades they and their neighbours have faced growing threats to their livelihoods. Drought has made it difficult for many families to feed themselves by means of their traditional mix of subsistence activities – cultivation and cattle herding. The establishment of national parks and hunting concessions has added to the pressure on scarce resources. Competition for agricultural and grazing land has led to inter-group-conflict, made worse by the spread of automatic weapons in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Mursi are amongst the best known of the peoples of the lower Omo. The pottery lip-plates worn by women in their lower lips have made them a prime attraction for tourists and helped to sustain a view of them, in guidebooks and travel articles, as an ‘untouched’ people, living in one of the last ‘wildernesses’ of Africa. The aim of the Mursi Online website is to help correct this stereotypical view by providing accurate and reliable information about the history, culture and environment of the Mursi, and about the challenges and opportunities facing them and their neighbours today.
When Mursi girls reaches puberty age , she will have her lip cut and a small wooden stick inserted, giving her new identify, she becomes a (bansanai) an age set Mursi that indicates a girls pass age from girlhood to woman hood. One her lip plate has been cut an d stretched over year perio d by inserting bigger and bigger weade plugs and then, increasingly larger lip plate made of either clay or wood (Debinga)
The red lip plates are made by placing in hot coals and covering then with the sweet smelling bark of the gongui tree. The white lip plates are firs, but not rubbed as the black once are with grass (linnui) or burned loamy, a medicinal plant also applied to wounds (such as pierced ears, cicatrisation marks and cut lips). Wooden lip plates are (burgui), typically made only by men are said to be the largest and the most beautiful lip plates worn by unmarried Mursi girls and woman. Although such lip plate ar e seen among th e northern Mursi.
They generally worn the lip plates in four main occasions/reasons.
– When serving men food
– During ritual events (like wedding)
– At Donga (dueling computation) or as spectators at Ulla fight
– At dancing
– Unmarried girls those with large lip plate might wear then whenever they are in public
(e.g. When fetching water and visiting friends).
With her husband she wear her lip plates less and less frequently when serving her husband and her guest food or attending harvest cultivations for example younger, marriage woman may still choose to wear the lip plate during special occasions like Donga “stick fighting” and dances. But older marked woman hardly wear the lip plates even if her husband are still alive.
The lip plates serves to remained people of woman’s commencement to her culture and above all to her deceased husband. If the husband dies, the lip plate is thrown away and should never be worn again even if a woman is taken in by one of her deceased husband’s brothers it is only likely that she will wear a lip plate unless she is very young and lip-plate for many months or her friends go to her and discuss and talked about the death and tell her that it is time that she should stop mourning.