A common Ethiopian practice is the stretching of the mouth, after pulling out two of the bottom teeth and creating a small cut on the bottom lip, and the insertion of a lip plate. Lip plates are usually made out of clay or wood and have beautiful designs made with a mix of herbs, plants and soil. Girls start wearing these lip plates once they reach puberty, and as years go by, they progressively use bigger ones, resulting in the extreme stretching of the bottom lip. Wearing these plates can be a symbol of self-esteem, fertility, wealth, strength and importance in the tribe’s social cycle. They can even provide a bigger dowry for a girl’s family once she is close to getting married. It is a fascinating practice that can signify the different perceptions of beauty around the world.
Body scarification is a common practice of a lot of African tribes. Many African men and women get scarred, once they reach puberty, in order to create beautiful and intricate designs on their skin. These scars are a symbol of beauty, maturity and fertility (for example, scars around the abdomen can symbolise fertility in women).They are even believed to protect them from the Gods of death. This is something that Western culture deems ugly and tries to hide by any means possible, but in this context is a way of expressing emotions and traditions well embodied in these people’s lives, and it is sure to be a practice that will live on for years to come.
Text by Elpida Komianou