A lip plate is a body modification which involves wearing one or more jewelries in the upper, lower or both lips. You can encounter this process in Africa and in South America. It was and it is wear by tribal peoples with different connotations like cultural, aesthetic or religious. The first step for a lip plate is piercing the lip and then inserting in the produced hole a disc that you will change from time to time with bigger ones. In this way the lip will stretch and take the form of the used disc.
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The shape may vary from one culture to another. While some are smaller others can achieve the size of a dinner plate. The lip plate can be different from one person to another because some people have a more flexible skin than other. Both men and women wear handmade lip plate discs. The disc reflects the personality of the person that wears it. Mursi tribe is famous world wide for their lip plates and the designs made by them because they are capable to emphasize their features. With the time Mursi lip plate became so famous so people started to associate the lip plate with the name of the Mursi tribe. One of the reasons why girls cut and stretch their lower lip was to look unattractive for the slave dealers.
In tribes of Africa it is very normal to excise the front teeth (two and in some cases four) together with the lower lip plate. For example in the Sara and Lobi tribe is used the upper lip plate s well. There are some tribes like Makonde, where they insert a plate only into the upper lip. In some tribes the size of the plate symbolized the place in the tribe of the person who wears it.
In South America, lip plates are usually made from wood. In Surma and Mursi tribes women begin to pierce for the first time with 6 to 12 months before the wedding. This process is made when women have around 15 years and usually is introduced a peg wood with 1 or 2 cm length. After 2 or 3 weeks the wound is healed and the peg is removed and in its place is inserted a bigger one (about 4 cm). With time the peg is replaced by a disc and achieve from 8 cm to 16 cm length.
Fortunately in these days the Mursi girls can choose if they wear or not a lip plate. Recently this body modification attracted many tourists from all over the world both in Mursi and Surma tribes without making any modifications in their life style.
In some tribes from Amazon when the boys become men they pierce their lips while in North America the girls use lip plate to mark their maturity. The first lip plate for a girl is very important and that is why this event is celebrated in a very pompous way.
Here there are some important tribes that used or are still using lip plate: Mursi and Suri from Ethiopia, Sara, Makonde from Tanzania and Mozambique, Botocudo from Brazil.
Though some people think this is a distasteful practice it has been used since ancient time and it will still be use in the years to come.11
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