Manchester, Osaka and the Omo Valley

This week I have the pleasure of welcoming Juan Salazar Bonet, a researcher from Valencia Prehistory Museum, on his return visit to the Manchester Museum. Juan visited almost a year ago now to see our collection of Mursi objects. 

A goat skin worn by unmarried men, Mursi, Ethiopia, 1969-1986. The Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection.

The Mursi, or Mun as they call themselves,  live in the lower Omo valley of southwestern Ethiopia. The Manchester Museum collection was donated by David Turton, once director of the department of social anthropology at the University of Manchester, who collected it during anthropological field trips between 1969 and 1986. Juan is interested in how Mursi material culture has developed over time and is comparing our collection with another in the National Museum of Ethnography, Osaka, Japan. 

One of the most recognisable elements of Mursi and the closely related Suri culture is body modification, namely lip plates and ear plugs worn by women. Today body modification is very much in vogue as a street fashion in the UK, particularly ear plugs and flesh tunnels. Any form of body art or modification, be it in Ethiopia or England, is often committed  as a cultural expression, an attempt to beautify or to demonstrate an affiliation with a particular group. 

Stephen Terence Welsh 

Curator of Living Cultures

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