Ethiopia’s Omo Valley | Africa’s Last Frontier, National Geographic Magazine: Drinking With a Lip Plate

A Mursi woman licks the last drop of beer off of her lip plate in a bar in Kibbish which is the last village at the end of the last road in the upper Omo Valley.  Years of stretching a chin incision that was made during teenage years allows this woman to wear a lip plate.  The origin of this tradition is debated, but current belief is that it is purely for adornment. 

Women do not wear their lip plates while in their home village, so when they are in remote areas of Ethiopia only accessible by boat on the Omo River, they are free to wander their villages feeling safe with their lip plates off. Without an inserted plate, a ring of flesh hangs across their chins. The bar is walled in mud, its floor a cement of spit, sweat, and old bottle caps. Outside the bar, police walk up and down the town’s main dirt road with megaphones telling men to check their AK-47’s at the police station.  The man facing away in the background of this photo ignored their message.

Buy This Image