The far-reaching consequences of modernity have inculcated a mentality in some Africans to view some indigenous cultural practices with a condescending attitude. However, this is not the case with the Surma people in Ethiopia.
They have taken pride in their culture, and have not allowed the excesses of modern trends devalue what they believe in. They have a peculiar and intriguing practice that determines the whole value of the attraction of a woman. They live around Lake Turkana and the Lower Omo Valley in Southern Ethiopia.
The Surma people are made up of three ethnic groups. These are the Mursi, the Suri, and the Mekan people. With them, a woman's beauty is determined by how large their lip plate is. The intricacies of how they put on their lip plates are very fascinating, if not captivating. It's a process marked with a touch of precision and passion.
The lip plates are usually made up of clay or wood, and they vary in size, ranging between 4 to 25 centimetres. For one to be adorned with such, two or four teeth are removed before the lower lip is cut to fit the lip plate. This process is carried out by the mother when the girls reach puberty. To stretch the lip, a ceramic disc is placed after the cut and will remain until the initial cut has healed before it is placed with another slightly larger disc. The process is repeated so that the lip will become large enough to accommodate the first lip plate which is about 4 centimetres.
The unique perception around the lip plate is that it boosts one's self-esteem. The more the beauty is there, the more the girl is valued. The tradition is valued by both parents because it indirectly means that the father’s number of cows will increase when he is paid her dowry. Any man who must marry a Suri or Mursi lady has to be wealthy because her dowry usually falls between 40 cattle (for the small plate) and 60 (for the large plate).
The girls are also allowed to design their own plates. The men do not wear such, but they have body paintings. Each scar on a man tells a story, that he has fought and killed an enemy.
With all that is happening in the world, there are some who still value their traditions religiously.