What Are African Tribal Women’s Neck Rings?

African tribal neck rings are a type of jewelry worn by the women of the Southern Ndebele tribe, who are native to South Africa and Zimbabwe. Women generally begin wearing these rings around age 12 when they are eligible to marry. The rings create the illusion of a long, graceful neck, which is considered very attractive to the Southern Ndebele people.

Neck rings are narrow bands made of copper. The first band is wrapped around the woman’s neck when she is married, and subsequent rings can be added as the woman gains wealth and esteem. The more rings a woman has, the higher her social standing in the tribe. Though the rings are not sealed or fastened in place, they are not removed even when the woman is sleeping. The rings are only taken off after the woman’s husband dies.

The neck rings that are worn by the Southern Ndebele people do not cause any permanent damage or deformity to the body. They can be put on, worn and removed without injury to the woman. Though the rings give the illusion that the woman’s neck is being elongated, they do not actually stretch the muscles or vertebrae in any permanent way.