The Mursi number about 5,000 and are primarily pastoralists categorized in the Nilo-Saharan language family. The Mursi are Known for their lip plate tradition; an unmarried woman’s lower lip will be pierced and then progressively stretched over the period of a year. A clay disc indented like a pulley wheel is squeezed into the hole in the lip. As it stretches, ever-larger discs are forced in until the lip, now a loop, is so long it can sometimes be pulled right over the owner’s head. The size of the lip plate determines the bride price, with a large one bringing in fifty head of cattle.
The women make the lip plates from clay, color them with ochre and charcoal, and bake them in a fire. Stick fighting or “donga”: At a fight, each contestant is armed with a hardwood pole about six feet long with a weight of just less than two pounds. In the attacking position, this pole is gripped at its base with both hands – the left above the right, in order to give maximum swing and leverage. Each player beats his opponent with his stick as many times as possible with the intention of knocking him down and eliminating him from the game. Players are usually unmarried men.
The winner is carried away on a platform of poles to a group of girls waiting at the side of the arena, who decide among themselves which of them will ask for his hand in marriage. Taking part in a stick fight is considered to be more important than winning it. The men paint their bodies with a mixture of chalk and water before the fight.