In Western cultures it is easy to see scarification as an archaic practice, based on primitive beliefs. But in Ethiopia, specifically among the Suri tribe’s people the practice has significant historical and cultural importance and the over 30000 strong group still partake in this important ritual.
For Suri women scarification is an elaborate part of their culture and signifies everything from beauty to adulthood or even, in some cases, is simply a mark of belonging. Most girls and women sport delicate swirls of raised flesh in intricate patterns.
Most scarring takes place during rituals to celebrate the onset of puberty, the first menstrual cycle and childbirth. Although there are other reasons for the practice of scarification (It can be viewed as a test of courage and strength or as a matter of family pride and honor and as an indication of a women’s willingness to bear children) the quest for beauty is nearly always part of the goal.
On our recent ORYX Omo Valley Culture Photo Tour to the region, where we camp on the outskirts of the Suri village of Kibbish, we were able to speak to Suri women about the importance of the ritual and photograph both the ceremony (After the initial cuts, scars have organic sap or ash rubbed into them in order to make them heal as raised bumps.) as well as take portraits of many of the members of this Omo valley tribe who sport finished scars. All are beautiful and uniquely impressive…
A cultural photography tour at ORYX is more than just snapping images. We spend time learning from the people we’re photographing, interacting and engaging with them. With the help of local guides and translators we share our stories and learn theirs.
That’s what it’s about!
– Your Culture Photo Tour Leader, Samantha Reinders