African Lip Plates

African Woman with large plate.

African Woman with large plate.






Lip plates are a form of body modification used in Africa and parts of South America. The plates are made by hand from clay or wood. These plates are inserted into a pierced hole in either the bottom or top lip which stretches the lip. In Africa the plate are sometimes accompanied by the removal of the bottom front teeth.

The lip plate in some parts of Africa is used to determine social and economic status. The larger the plate can denote a wealthier family. It can also represent the number of cattle paid for a bride. Among the Surma people, which reside in Ethiopia, woman who are preparing for marriage will undergo the lip stretching process.

Stretched lip of Surma Woman.

Stretched lip of Surma Woman.













The African girls that partake in this cultural process usually have the choice whether or not to get the lip piercing. If they decide to endure the stretching of their lips each girl will construct their own plates by hand. The women usually include some type of decoration on their lip plates. 


In the Amazon lip plates are worn by men and it signifies becoming a man. Also lip plates are associated with the best singers in the Amazonian region. Lip plates worn by women in the Amazonian region indicate the woman preparing for marriage.


One Response to “African Lip Plates”

  1. blogginforschool Says:

    Good subject. I’d like to see more here to get a full understanding of the ins and outs of the ritual.

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