By Alex Jones
STUNNING shots reveal ‘long-necked’ tribal women adorned in swathes of brass rings, originally designed to prevent TIGERS from biting their throats.
The incredible shots show the Kayan women, young and old, wearing the curious golden rings which have become a staple of their aesthetic.
The women, who live on the border between Myanmar and Thailand, start wearing the weighty rings when they are just five year’s old and will wear them throughout their entire lives.
The striking shots were captured by Lebanese photographer Omar Reda (34) whilst he was exploring different tribal societies in South East Asia.
“Although the height of the neck rings is a little disconcerting at first, the Kayan tribe was one of the most hospitable people – very lovely and welcoming,” he said.
“There are many stories told about the origin of why people started wearing these rings.
“Some believe that it started off as a protective measure against tigers who would attack their prey by biting their neck.
“However, over the years this shield transformed into a sign of beauty and fashion.
“The rings can weigh around 10 kilograms and the ladies informed me that this process is done through three phases in life, during their childhood and teenage years specifically.
“However, the extra weight on the neck is not painful – although the added weight can hurt your knees as you get older – and the rings can be removed without their necks collapsing.
“They are so proud of their rings. They see it as a beauty accessory and part of their culture identity. It’s a fascinating topic which deserves more research.”
Although it may look as though these women have stretched necks, it’s more an optical illusion than anything else.
As the weight of the coils press down, the clavicle is lowered, and with each addition to the neck rings it falls further, compressing the rib cage as well. The shoulders finally fall away to give the appearance of an elongated neck.
Whatever the purpose of the rings – for protection, beauty, or to look more ‘dragon-like’ – Reda believes his photos tell an important tale about human evolution.
“I like to reflect emotions through my photos and show the beauty of our diversity,” explained Omar, who has travelled the world photographing people from all walks of life.
“I always compare tribal visits to time travel.
“It is like you ordered the time machine to go back 2,000 years.
“It shows you how the first human beings survived, and you see the age-old traditions live on.
“No photo or documentary will ever compare to actually meeting these people and seeing how they live.
“Diversity is a beautiful thing. We should preserve it before the whole world embrace the Western identity, and we become all the same.”