By Lian Cheng
KUCHING, July 10: The Bidayuh Ringed Ladies of Padawan will go into history following their images being imprinted on the walls of Mile 10 Bazaar.
The effort to create the biggest street mural in Kuching is made in conjunction with the premiere of “The Last Ring Ladies”, a documentary film by Sarawakian director, Nova Goh (NG Production) on international broadcast channels, NHK (Japan), KBS (Korea) and PTS (Taiwan) since August 2019.
One of the highlights “Dayung Hmuai Semban” of the documentary features the last five Bidayuh ringed ladies who are now being painted on the wall at Mile 10 bazaar, Kota Padawan to promote the culture of the Bidayuh and revitalisation of tourism in Padawan.
According to Evangeline Thian who is “Dayung Hmuai Semban” Mural Painting project manager and “The Last Ringed Ladies” documentary line producer, “Dayung Hmuai” means “beautiful lady” in Bi-emban (sub-ethnic of Bidayuh) dialect while Semban is their village of origin located in Ulu Bengoh.
The villagers has since 2014 moved to Bengoh Resettlement Scheme, Semadang, following the impoundment of the Bengoh Dam where Semban was submerged under water.
These traditional Semban ladies are being featured with their Ruyank’ng and Rasunk’ng which are parts of the distinctive culture of the Bi’emban (a sub-ethnic of Bidayuh from Ulu Bengoh) of Sarawak.
Ruyank’ng and Rasunk’ng are the copper coiled rings worn respectively on the forearms and calves. The rings are traditionally considered majestic to Bidayuh ladies, who put them on at a very young age. Culturally, they are part of the daily dress up as well as a symbol of beauty and nobility.
The wearers were not supposed to take off the rings even when they did the daily chores. This unique tradition can be traced back to the travelling Chinese traders who brought copper to Borneo.
The costume Bulang Sebi (headgear), Tumbih (necklaces), Kain Ngumban (red sash), Sisink’ng and Wi (belts), Baju Putang (blouse), and Jemuh Sulam (Skirt/Sarong) are known as the unique tradition of “Dayung Hmuai Semban”.
There are now only a handful of Ringed Ladies left. They are between 69 to 94 years of age. In 2010, there were eight of them and by 2015, only six left. Today, there are only five of them.
The mural painting project “Dayung Hmuai Semban” which is undertaken by local muralist Leonard Siaw is about 45 feet in height and 120 feet in length. It is expected to be completed in September, 2020.
Siaw’s recent mural artworks included “Thank You, Frontliners” (2020) at Siburan, Kuching; “History On The Wall: Sunset Business” series (2019) at downtown Kuching; “Jazz Up The Night” at Riverside Hotel, Kuching; “Wild About Kuching (2017) at Wayang Street, Kuching.
Siaw’s work “The Joy of Harvest” (2020) is found in Penang. He also painted the mural entitling “Fishing Fun” at Benalla, Victoria, Australia during Wall To Wall Festival in 2018.
This largest street art in Kuching, “Dayung Hmuai Semban” is supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Sarawak, Padawan Municipal Council, and Dian Kiara Sdn Bhd.-DayakDaily