KUCHING: Being one of only five remaining Bidayuh “ring ladies” today, Anyu Daik hopes the tradition will not be lost among the younger generations.
At age 70, she continues to take part in tourism and cultural programmes to promote the distinctive age-old culture associated with the Semban community, a sub-tribe of the Bidayuhs.
She has passed down the tradition to her daughter-in-law Anat Ugom, 44, who started to wear the rings – ruyang for the forearms and rasung for calves – four years ago.
Anat has since accompanied Anyu on tours and exhibition programmes organised by government agencies and tourism bodies to promote the Bidayuh culture, with Milan, Italy being their latest trip to a foreign country.
“I started to wear the rings when I was 10 years old. This is a tradition passed down from our ancestors.
“Although modernisation has made it impractical for today’s women to practise this culture, I hope this tradition would not disappear.
“I hope the younger generation would put on the rings, at least for special occasion,” she told StarMetro when met at their village at Bengoh Resettlement Scheme, some 45km from here.
The Semban ladies started to put on the rings at various ages, with some as young as 10, depending on their parent’s social status and financial standing. These coiled rings, which looked gold or yellow in colour, are made of copper.
It is believed that their ancestors had traded with the Chinese and that the copper rings were payment for goods procured from the villagers.
Anat and Anyu are originally from the 300-year-old Kampung Semban, or better known as “a paradise in the cloud”, nestled among the mountains of Bungo Range on top a hill about 300m above sea level.
The family has relocated and preferred to stay at the resettlement as it is near to the town area and has modern facilities including treated water and electricity.
Anyu said it was painful to wear the ring in the beginning and that ring ladies would grow up with abnormal limbs. She did not mind as beauty precedes everything else.
She said the wearers do not take the rings off even when they do their daily chores or attending to their farms under the hot sun. The rings have become part of their daily attire.
The rings had been a symbol of beauty and prestige, she added.
“Some of my friends would take off the rings when they have to catch a flight to visit their children in peninsular Malaysia.
“I will take them off during my visits to the doctor. Otherwise, I will use them daily because it is difficult to take them out,” she added.
Apart from the rings, Anyu said other ornamental accessories for the Semban women included the bangles, tumbih (beaded necklace), silver belts and a headgear.
However, she agreed that one should not be forced to wear the rings unless they are interested to preserve the culture, as it would take a lot of commitment and sacrifice.