Affectionately called ‘giraffe’ women, Kayan ladies ‘stretch’ their necks with brass rings as sign of beauty

It’s in the traditional culture of the Kayan women to adorn themselves with beautiful brass rings that they coil around their necks. It is yet another uncanny way of portraying elegance and beauty, along with their bright garments and headdresses.

Dmytro Gilitukha, 28, a photographer from Ukraine, presents to us an informal glimpse into the everyday lives of eastern Burma’s long-necked women. These remarkable photos were taken on May 25, 2016, in Pan Pet.

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The Kayan women “stretch” their necks with coiled brass rings, and as a result, they are affectionately called “giraffe” women.

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Actually, the neck is not literally stretched, but the weight of the rings pushes down the muscles around the collar bone and, as a result, compresses the rib cage, creating an elongated neck effect, which is considered a very graceful beauty asset.

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The neck stretching starts when the girls are as young as 5 years old. As they grow older, the neck rings are added. An adult woman can have as many as 20 pounds (roughly 9 kg) of the brass coil extending 10-15″ long. The record for the most coils is 28.

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According to the Daily Mail report, Dmytro said: “It gives an optical illusion of an elongated neck. Some people think that without the rings, the neck would break but this is not true. We saw one woman who had removed her rings and she is fine. After three weeks the neck returns to its normal condition.

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“There are several theories why women wear the neck rings. The main reason is to differentiate themselves from other minorities.

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“It is also their vision of beauty and social ranking.

“And our guide said it’s possible that in the past neck rings had a protective role from wild tigers in the mountain territory. Women remained at home while men went hunting in the forest, and sometimes, wild animals would come to the village and attack people. Since then, the coils have become symbolic of grace and beauty,” he said.

Dmytro said that Pan Pet “is very rural and bursting with character. Children run around naked or in colorful handmade clothes. The people are so laid back and welcoming. They are more than happy to discuss their way of living with a local guide who can translate for you. We saw them crushing beetles to eat—apparently they taste sweet—and music filled the air as a woman sat playing a handcrafted three string guitar.”

Photos credit: Gettyimages.

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