Why African women stretch their lips: Scientists arguing about a strange custom for a hundred years

The customs of many African tribes shock modern people because they seem inhuman and meaningless to them, but those tribes didn’t care. To achieve the aim, one must pass through some pain and challenges.

These rare retro photographs below show representatives of the Mursi tribes, teas and tirma, where the tradition of “stretching” lips, inserting clay plates into them, has been preserved to this day. Hundreds of tourists come to African countries to see this frightening picture with their own eyes.

The larger the hole diameter, the more prestigious
The larger the hole diameter, the more prestigious

For a girl, the lip-cutting ceremony resembles an initiation ceremony. It is carried out at the age of 15-16. The mother or any other woman from the settlement makes a deep incision and inserts a piece of wood into her lip. The wound heals in about three months, after which it can begin to stretch. For several months, the girls manage to put plates of an impressive size. Presumably, they decide which diameter to give preference.

The reasons for the emergence of such a custom are still not completely clear. According to one of the versions, such disfigurement of women’s mouths could have been carried out deliberately so that the nomadic conquerors would not take beauties from these tribes.

The purpose for which the lips are pierced and the plates are inserted is not exactly known
The purpose for which the lips are pierced and the plates are inserted is not exactly known

Some researchers claim a direct relationship between the size of the disk and the social significance of the girl in the tribe. The more important the person is, the more the lip is stretched.

There is also a version that the larger the plate, the richer the dowry the bride will receive on her wedding day, for example, the father will give her and her husband more cows. True, other researchers assure that the dowry for girls is formed long before piercing the lip, so such a motive can hardly guide them.

It is especially prestigious to have both lips stretched
It is especially prestigious to have both lips stretched

There is also a version that a plate in the lip is one of the types of “decorating” oneself, and it symbolizes the strength of a woman and her self-sufficiency. Often there is a version according to which lip piercing occurs with the onset of reproductive age, and the tradition itself is a sign of motherhood adopted in these tribes.

African tribe with plates in their lips
African tribe with plates in their lips

It should also be noted that often girls have several front teeth removed so that the plate fits into place. Aerobatics is the willingness to put two discs at once in the upper and lower lip. This practically deprives women of the opportunity to speak and eat normally. Still, such beauties simply have no end to the suitors.

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