We end this list with what must truly be one of the oddest, most impractical and downright unattractive combinations of body modification and ornamentation. Lip platters, and only question is why?
A lip platter, as the illustration makes clear, is simply the perforation and elongation of either one or both lips, usually the bottom, to the extent that a disc of varying size can be held in place and worn as an ornament. Typically the labret is pierced, and as with neck stretching and skull elongating, by increments, the perforation is expanding by the insertion of ever larger discs or plates. The practice is most widespread in Africa where it is still widely practised, most notably in parts of Ethiopia and the Sahel region.
In most parts of Africa, it is usually accompanied by the removal of the two lower front teeth. The ‘why’ part of this is again confusing, and speculative. Anthropologists have postulated that the more extreme the modification, and the larger and more elaborate the plate, the higher the individual stands in the social hierarchy.
As a general rule of thumb, a girl will have her lip pierced a year or so before marriage, after which a simple wooden peg is inserted, and once healed, the process begins. The girl will craft her own plate, and as the size of the plate increases, so does the intricacy of its ornamentation. The largest lip plate on record was identified in Ethiopia, and it measured 23.4 inches in circumference and was 7.6 inches wide.
The only other region of the world where the practice has been recording is in Amazonia, although in the Pacific Northwest of America, among the Haida, Tsimshian, and Tlingit a similar practice has been observed, usually as a symbol of a woman’s maturity, and not in any way as extreme as those in Africa. In Africa, the practice is confined largely to women, but among Amazon tribes it is strictly a male preserve, usually as a mark of entering the ‘men’s house’.
It also goes without saying that the Modern Primitive movement as adopted this, among many other ancient methods of beautification, so one is just as likely to see a lip plate adorning a youth on the New York Metro as in a tourist village in Ethiopia.
Where did we get this stuff? Here are our sources: