Mursi people are Nilo-Saharan and have their own language. They live in the lower Omo Valley of southwestern Ethiopia. Their livelihood mainly basis on rearing cattle, consequently they move from place to place in search of land for grazing and convenient climate for growing their crops (sorghum and maize). The Omo River meanders for nearly 1000km southwest of Addis Ababa, and 100km north of Kenyan border. Mursi inhabitants estimated less than 10,000 and live with certain division of villages in the Mago Park.
Some Mursi practice flood retreat cultivation, particularly in the areas where the tsetse fly prohibits cattle rearing. Honey is collected from beehives (made with bark and dung).
The Mursi women paint their bodies and face in white. They also have their lips cut at the age of 15 or 16. They are the ones who wear the lip plates made in different sizes. Through the years, larger plates are inserted into the lip causing it to stretch. The larger the clay plate, the more the woman is worth before she gets married. It is said that the clay plates were originally used to prevent capture by slave traders. Although very unique and part of their tradition, the Mursi women only wear the plates for a short time because they are so heavy and uncomfortable. It is thought that the Mursi women wear the plates to boost their beauty.
Men of the Mursi also use white paint for their bodies and faces. Just like any other tribes in the lower omo valley, the men must pass a test before they can get married. A Mursi man is given a stick called a “Donga” and must face one opponent. The men then battle it out, beatting each other with the sticks.
The first fighter to submit loses and the winner is taken by a group of women to determine who he will marry. Men of the tribe also practice scarification. Like other tribes, this is the marking of an enemy killed by him.
On the other hand, the Mursi men are very strong, black, and move naked. Their lip is small oblique shape and they have red eyes with flat nose. Beehive shape huts are constructed from grass by women hence Mursi men own no house, nevertheless; they live turn by turn in different huts of their wives.