The original body models: Striking portraits offer rare glimpse into rarely-photographed Ethiopian tribe

By Kristiana Hall

These striking portraits of a rarely-photographed Ethiopian tribe offer a rare glimpse of ancient body modification traditions.

Dale Morris, 46, visited the Omi tribe who live in the Omo Valley of Southern Ethiopia multiple times over an eight-year period.

PIC FROM Dale R Morris/Caters News

With everything from tribal war paint to lip piercings the size of dinner plates, his stunning gallery shows some of the world’s most unique and radical body modifications.

Dale, who is originally from the UK but now lives in South Africa and took the most recent photos last month, said: “I feel it’s a privilege to capture moments in people’s lives.

“The Omo’s culture has remained untouched for hundreds of years, but the modern world is invading and soon these costumes and body modifications will be a thing of the past.

“I feel I am capturing these images on the cusp of change.

“Soon these people will have changed, and their ancient customs and fashions will disappear.

“I have a love of communicating the wonders of our world to others – I’m a storyteller, and photography is part of my storytelling kit bag.”

Dale, who has been a photographer for more than 20 years, said the huge lip plates featured in many of his photographs are considered a thing of beauty.

Other images feature body and face paints sourced from local soils and coloured with natural dyes found in plants and minerals.

This body paint is commonly worn like makeup among women, with more ornate painting done for special events like weddings and parties.

Dale added: “Literally, the thinking is ‘the bigger the plate, the hotter the girl’.

“The process starts when the girl is a teenager.

PIC FROM Dale R Morris/Caters News

“A slit is cut in the lower lip and a small corck is inserted. gradually and over the course of years, larger and larger plates are inserted, hence stretching the lip until it is long enough to put in something the size of a small dinner plate.

“When the lip is stretchy enough for a big plate, the two bottom teeth are removed.

“It is a strange practice that looks extremely painful and uncomfortable.”