Ethiopia: Mursi People

The Mursi people are the most photographed in the Omo Valley. The tribe is very remote, located just miles away from the South Sudan border and after a long and rough gravel road. Mursi’s fame is due to the clay lip plates that women stick into their mouths with a slit lower lip (either as a sign of beauty or to make women ugly for other men – lips are pierced at the age of 15 when women are married). Traditionally nomadic and pastoralist, they are more and more relying on the tourist dollar. The whole experience is utterly uncomfortable and humiliating, like being in a human zoo – every woman with a child hanging off her tit asks you for photo that you pay for individually (a child means double the price). Try to take a group photo and you gotta pay for everyone in the frame. Mursi are very unfriendly and aggressive, to the point of borderline assaulting the tourists, who equally look ridiculously disgusting with their long zoom lens focusing on women with lip plates within feet of them. Apparently, alcoholism is extreme in Mursi, with almost everyone totally wasted on local moonshine by noon and carrying AK-47s around doesn’t make it for a safe and relaxing atmosphere. In fact, on the day we visited, we had to settle for a small village, as in the larger one, two drunks were shot dead in a fight over tourist money, and all the tourist jeeps ran for their lives.