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African Neck Stretching


African Neck Stretching

Long Neck Tribe

Although women of the Ndebele tribe of South Africa once wore brass and copper rings ("iindzila") around their necks, they no longer commonly do so. However, many African tribes still wear various types of rings and beads around their necks that can give the appearance of stretching the neck. In many African cultures, the amount of beads worn is a measure of wealth and social status. In addition, wearing neck ornaments and beads is thought to give one strong ritual power, in addition to enhancing the women's esthetics and beauty. Presently, the Kayan (Karen) tribe from Burma and Thailand use a series of rings to give the appearance of neck stretching. The appearance of neck stretching is mostly an illusion, as the neck rings act to displace the collar bones and ribs. Although various tribes traditionally used neck stretching for cultural reasons, presently many individuals wear neck rings for tourism rather than as a native ritual. Interestingly, the explorer Marco Polo was the first Westerner to observe neck stretching during his 14th century journey to the East. African neck stretching is just one form of body sculpting. Another example is cranial shaping, in which the shape of the head is elongated and made more conical or alternatively, flattened and made wider. Cranial deformation was widely practiced in various American tribes, including the Pueblo Indians and the Incas. Unlike cranial shaping, African neck stretching is reversible and once the neck rings are removed, the neck and body returns to its natural form.  


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Photograph "Nyangatom tribe" by Christian Caron and is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License - BY-ND
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