Biljana Jurukovski

Mursi people


The Mursi people are understood to be one of the most feared tribes that still exist today, but I felt nothing but welcomed. Enveloped in their culture, I formed an attachment to this tribe. Living in an isolated area of the Lower Omo Valley in Ethiopia has equated to this community remaining fairly inaccessible until a few years ago. The unconventional journey to get to their current locale reinforced their seclusion from the contemporary world. I felt as though I had entered one of the most unpolluted areas of this earth.

Centuries of isolation have enabled the Mursi tribe to reach the present day with almost completely unchanged traditions and rituals, in which I had the privilege of being immersed. One enduring ritual has been the adornment of numerous jewels and accessories that serve as both an aesthetic ornament whilst also delineating an individual’s social contacts. They developed their own tactile language, of which I only scratched the surface in my time spent with them. It didn’t take long for me to deduce that another aesthetic practice that holds great importance in the Mursi culture is the ritual of body painting.





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For this tribe, body painting is performed for aesthetic appeal, and symbolic representation, as well as a tool to protect and heal themselves. Much like many other acts performed by the tribe, it was multi-purpose and rooted in tradition.Whilst the body modification practices of scarification, shaving of hair, and women donning a lip plate may seem extreme, they are derived from centuries of tradition and are thus habitual to the community.