The lip plates, also known as lip plugs are to enhance beauty. mediadrumimages/SarawutIntarob/@sarawut_intarob

By Alexander Greensmith


MEET THE tribe where women wear face plates measuring up to twenty-four-inches wide to make themselves more BEAUTIFUL.

One picture captured a woman in a floral headdress wearing an impressive 20-inch clay plate whilst another showed a woman’s stretched and shrivelled lips after years of wearing the device.

Other images show an elderly woman with stretched ear lobes and male members of the tribe keeping lookout from a tree.

State-funded dams will threaten their Ethiopian existence, but the photographer was inspired by their positive attitude when he visited in January 2020. Mediadrumimages/SarawutIntarob/@sarawut_intarob

The snaps were taken by professional photographer, Sarawut Intarob (37) from Wanon Niwat, Thailand.

“What shocked me most was their oral piercing tradition,” he said.

“When they are teenagers, girls decide if they would like large wooden or clay plates in their mouth. They believe that makes a woman even more beautiful.

Suri villages range from 40 to 1,000 people. mediadrumimages/SarawutIntarob/@sarawut_intarob

“I visited in January 2020 for nine days, and overall felt a beautiful but strange feeling with them.

“They still live normally and still have the same culture as their ancestors in the twenty-first century.”

The Suri Baale people live to the west of the Omo Valley, Ethiopia, and share a similar language with Chai and Timaga ethnic groups.

Women chew and spit chips on men’s bodies to summon rain for their crops. mediadrumimages/SarawutIntarob/@sarawut_intarob

Collectively, they are known as the Surma. Outside of these two politically and territorially different neighbours, they have no contact with the outside world and are over 60 miles away from the nearest city of Arba Minch, Ethiopia. Very few even know any Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia.

At puberty most young girls have their two lower teeth removed in order to get their lower lip pierced for face plates, this usually happens a year before they are to be married. Sometimes even four teeth are removed to allow a bigger plate inserted, as it is believed that the size represents social and economic importance to the tribe.

Sarawut took the shots on a Sony Alpha 7 III. Sarawut was only permitted to visit the tribe if he was allowed to have two guides with him at all times, however he felt nothing but warmth.

There are around 12 ethnic groups in Ethiopia, but with their face plates and stick fighting sports, the Suri are perhaps one of the most fascinating. mediadrumimages/SarawutIntarob/@sarawut_intarob

“They apply the make-up by mixing coloured clay with water and sometimes applying to the body. The initial objective was to repel various insects,” he added.

“But after doing so often it has become part of their culture and beauty. So sometimes they put flowers on their heads to celebrate various religious events such as housewarmings and weddings.

“Faces are sometimes painted with white clay paint to protect themselves from the sun, which is dotted on the face and body.

Cows aren’t killed unless needed to use for ceremonies. mediadrumimages/SarawutIntarob/@sarawut_intarob

“They were exciting to meet. Despite the language barrier, they are friendly to tourists and smiled when they saw themselves in the camera.”

You can follow the south east Asian photographer on Instagram @sarawut_intarob, where he has almost 10,000 followers as of June 2020.