"a piece of polished bone, as big as a watch, stuck flatways through his lower lip"
Young Mobali women of North Congo (c. 1910)
Public DomainYoung Mobali women of North Congo (c. 1910) - Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Makonde woman, Kenya (c. 1910)
Public DomainMakonde woman, Kenya (c. 1910) - Credit: Das Weib im Leben der Völker

The placement of a piece of bone into the lip is a tradition in many African cultures that is still practised today. After a child is born, the mother will pierce its lip with a thorn and insert stalks of grass encouraging the hole to expand. Gradually the hole will become large enough to place pieces of bone or ivory (known as labrets) into the lip hole. Depending on the tribe, the labret may be worn in the upper or lower lip, and sometimes in both lips.




Further reading:

www.ezakwantu.com, African Lip Plugs