Thursday, March 15, 2007


Mursi land is in southern Ethiopia. The Mursi people, numbering around 46,000 to 47,000, live to the southwest of the Aari in the South Omo Region of Ethiopia. Nomadic cattle herders, they move around to take advantage of available grazing and water for their cattle, as well as suitable conditions for growing their crops of sorghum and maize.

Surrounded by mountains between the Omon River and its tributary the Nino, the home of the Mursi is one of the most isolated regions of the country. Their neighbors include the Aari, the Banna, the Bodi, the Kara, the Kwegu, the Nyangatom and the Surma.

The Mursi women are famous for wearing plates in their lower lips. These lip discs are made of clay. Girls are pierced at the age of 15 or 16. Similar body ornaments are worn by the Suyá people, a Brazilian tribe.


Tradition remains intact here due to the inaccessibility of the region. The Mursi are survivors whose isolated geographic location, combined with the crises of drought, famine, war, migration, and epidemic diseases has shaped their identity. Cattle raids and civil instability between bordering ethnic groups is merely a means of survival.

Every aspect of daily life revolves around cattle and crops, which set the economic standard among the Mursi. When they trade in the market, crops and cattle are exchanged as money.Sorghum is a staple in their diet. The women stay close to their crop, the men close to their cattle. The Mursi people define paradise as a patch of fertile soil and good pasture.

Photos by Sergio Pessolano

Scarification of the body is common not just for ornamentation but also to indicate prowess in battle and the number of enemies killed. When a young Mursi girl reaches the age of 15 or 16, her lower lip is pierced so she can wear a lip plate. The larger the lip plate she can tolerate, the more cattle her bride price will bring for her father. Anthropologist offer additional several theories to explain the practice. the lip plates were used to deter slavers looking for unblemished girls, to deter evil spirits from entering the body by way of the mouth.The men draw intricate designs on each other's bodies with a thin layer of clay from the river bank. They use their finger tips as brushes to create a variety of patterns. The Mursi view the human body as a living canvas.

Photos by Sergio Pessolano

The Mursi have no central political authority or a real chieftain they greatly value the opinions of some of the men, usually over 50. Their role is to maintain tribal traditions rather than to make decisions for the group. As one of the most remote people groups in Ethiopia, the Mursi have remained relatively autonomous from the Ethiopian government. They alternate between peaceful and hostile relations with their neighbors, the Bodi and the Banna.The Mursi are in danger of displacement and denial of access to grazing and agricultural land, by African Parks Foundation in Ethiopia.

Photos by Sergio Pessolano

It is claimed that the Mursi were coerced into signing documents they could not read by government park officials. In 2005 463 homes were allegedly burned down by the Ethiopian Government in Nech Sar National Park Ethiopia after African Parks Foundation signed an agreement with the government.

1 comment:

luihamu said...

Saharan Vibe.

i just imagin the pain of piercing the lower lip.

This is the best blog i have come across.Most blogs talk about the future without knowing the foundtion of African societies and cultures.This is what African culture is all about.The Barter trade,the food,the attire and etc.

Saharan Keep it up.Jah bless.