During the Soviet-backed Derg regime under the government of Mengistu Haile Mariam (1975-1991), the Mursi had been told to abandon their practise of lip-plate because it was seen as a symbol of backwardness. Apparently, threats were issued by a regional government official that whoever continued to stretch their lips would have their lower lips cut off entirely, served as a lesson to others.
He laughed along good naturedly as soon as he realised that the cat had been led out of the bag. The sparkle in his eyes told me that he is an intelligent man with a great sense of humour. I asked him for his name and he told me he is Uleketele and I wrote it down immediately on my notebook. From then onwards, he would often come to me and asked me to show him his name on my notebook and to read it out loud. It delighted him immensely to look at his own name, written in Roman alphabets and hearing the sound of it from a farenji’s mouth.
“As soon as we wound down the car windows to have a better look at them, we were attacked by a swarm of flies which seemed to have originated from the Mursi. There was a sudden waft of strong body odour which hit the both of us from all direction without any warning.” Two women’s journey of a lifetime continues.
Sure enough, we spotted a bald Mursi woman with her lower lip hanging loosely beneath her jaw, sitting at the front of the market enjoying her bottle of araki. It was the first time in our lives that we have ever seen a Mursi woman in person.
Each woman, with a 20-litre jerry can strapped onto their backs, some pregnant and some riped with old age, take their task seriously as they often risk sexual harassment due to long distance of isolated paths taken to reach the water source. Humanitarian organisations have often tried to make sure that new water wells are being constructed as close as possible to their homes in order to avoid such risk.
Two Women, Two Tribes, and a Journey of a Lifetime is a 9-part series penned by Lim Ka Ea about her one year stint in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where she accompanied her husband on his 9th humanitarian mission. No stranger to travel and humanitarian missions herself, she learned that Ethiopia is not really Africa and […]