Surma or Suri Tribe
The Surma or Suri tribe are pastorals who live in the lowlands to the west of the Omo bordering Sudan. They live a similar lifestyle to the Mursi. As with the Mursi, cattle are invaluable to them. For both these peoples, it is the woman’s job to take care of the household and the land. Traditionally, their homes are constructed from wood and grasses, and most of the cooking takes place outside on an open fire. The young boys and unmarried men take care of the cattle. They spend much of the year in temporary grazing camps, returning to their established settlements for additional food and ceremonial events.
To the untrained eye it’s difficult to tell the Surma or Suri Tribe and Mursi apart. Their clothing, beautification processes of scarification, lip plates, hair design and jewelry are all similar. Like the Mursi, Suri girls are adorned with a lip plug from their mid-teens. A hole is pierced in the lower lip and plugged with a piece of wood until it heals. It is then stretched by the girl who repeatedly places larger wooden plugs in the hole until it is replaced by the clay plate.
The Surma or Suri tribe practice the art of body painting. Different clay are collected to acquire colors ranging from red, orange, yellow and white. They are mixed with a little water and painted onto face and body. The Suri are exceptional artists, although each design is both unique and only temporary. The Mursi practice this art to a lesser extent, but generally with less aptitude.