The Most Extreme Tribal Traditions Still Practiced Today

Published January 15, 2015
Updated February 27, 2024

Globalization has resulted in the blending and appropriation of cultural traditions around the world. These tribal traditions, however, have been left out.

World history has always been a story of blending and clashing cultures, but globalization and its technologies have made these events seem specific to our time. Nowadays people are not only intrigued by cultures vastly different from their own, but also have almost instant access to learn more about them, and appropriate some of their traditions. That being said, there are still some tribes whose traditions are still exclusively theirs. Here are a handful of them.

Lip Plates

Body modifications involving the lips are quite a common sight these days. But when compared to lip plates, your punk cousin seems tame. Also known as lip plugs or lip discs, lip plates are quite well-known all over the world. The procedure involves piercing a hole, typically in the lower lip, and then fitting a small plate inside it. As the lip becomes more and more stretched out, the plate gets replaced with a larger one.

Tribal Traditions Mursi

Mursi woman wearing traditional lip plate Source: Wikipedia

If you’ve never seen a lip plate, you might be surprised to find out exactly how much lips can stretch. Although the initial disc can be no bigger than half an inch in diameter, they usually get as big as 4 inches. In fact, the world record is 7.7 inches.

Tribal Traditions Lip Record

Ataye Eligidagne, the record holder for largest lip disk in the world. Source: Viral Spell

There was a time when this practice was quite common among many tribes throughout Africa and America. That’s part of the reason why the custom is so well-known. Nowadays only a few tribes still practice this tradition regularly, primarily the Mursi and Surma people of Ethiopia.

Tribal Traditions Lip Ear

Sometimes plates are inserted into the ears, as well. Source: Img Kid

All That's Interesting
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Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.