There are entirely too many African tribes to name in this post, but these photos will expose you to some of the more visually arresting images taken of some of these tribes people. Women in the Suri tribe wear massive lip plates that make their lower lips look like wrinkly stretched out rubber tubes that serve no purpose other than to hold a massive clay plate or disc. However, the lip plate is an old Suri tradition that continues to this day, and enables a woman to be married off, which in turn gives cattle and other goodies to the parents. The size of the lip plate will determine how valuable she is, in terms of the amount of cattle her family receives. Although, some young women are making the bold decision to forgo the plate, and according to one Suri woman, diminish “dribbling” from lack of a lower lip. These poor women also appear to lose their lower front teeth from the constant pressure of the plate.
The Mursi tribe is another African tribe that is well known for wearing the clay lip plates. With less than 10,000 Mursi in Ethiopia this traditional tribe faces challenges due to less land being available for cultivation and their cattle herding. In addition, starting in the 1980s they were unfortunately introduced to automatic weapons.
Other tribes include the Ashanti of central Ghana, the Afar of Ethiopia, the Zulu of South Africa and of course the Bushmen or San of southern Africa. The Bushmen have lived in the Kalahari Desert for around 20,000 years and are hunter-gatherers. Aside from hunting antelope they subsist mostly on nuts, fruits and roots from the desert.
It is difficult to look at these pictures and not be at least slightly disgusted by the lip plates, dangling ear lobes and strange bumps on some of the women’s skin. Even if these tribe people were to see modern cities and the way people dress, interact and live they would not be as shocked, I believe, as we are at their physical disfigurations. However, they have managed to survive in difficult terrain and with no modern tools or technology. These long standing African tribe people are definitely survivors, even if they do some very strange things to their bodies.