Bidayuh ‘ring ladies’ to go on ethnic exchange programme in

Boniface (centre) presents traditional costumes to Tawud (left) and Singai.

Boniface (centre) presents traditional costumes to Tawud (left) and Singai.

KUCHING: The renowned Bidayuh ring ladies’ cultural troupe from Kampung Sembang in Ulu Padawan will represent Malaysia at the Lo Spirito Del Pianeta (International Festival of Indigenous People and Tribal Groups) at Begamall in Milan, Italy from May 25 to June 13.

The group and their teacher were recently invited for an ethnic exchange programme in Milan.

Upon hearing the news, Dayak Bidayuh National Association (DBNA) feted them to dinner and sponsored their Bidayuh costumes and pocket money at a simple event at DBNA headquarters on Friday night.

“The group will be performing every night in Milan and demonstrate how they wear the brass rings around their arms and legs,” said DBNA deputy president Boniface Litis.

The trip to the festival is arranged by Sarawak Culture Village and they will be joined by the Iban and Orang Ulu cultural troupes, a Bidayuh wood carving maker, pua kumbu makers and Orang Ulu bead makers.

The three ladies who will be travelling to Italy to showcase Bidayuh traditional dances and costumes are Peluk Abeh, Tawud Luhan and Singai Nekan. Peluk was unable to attend the dinner that night.

The group will be led by Mat Titeng who is a vocalist, musician and folk song artiste. A teacher by profession, Mat said he would sing the folklore songs and play the popular Bidayuh bamboo musical instrument called ‘pretong’ at the concert.

“While there (Milan), we will also be participating in the other activities arranged by the organiser including the craft bazaar and workshops where we will demonstrate how to make the brass rings.

“This will be the first time the ladies travel overseas to promote their unique culture. They have gone to Kuala Lumpur twice before,” he said.

According to Mat, the three ring ladies were probably the last in Sarawak or even Borneo as the young generation was not keen to wear these rings, once the symbol of beauty among Bidayuh ladies.

The festival in Milan which gathers cultural troupes and performers from all over the world aims to give a first hand account of people who daily live their culture and share it with others, erase stereotypes that do not reflect reality through the movement of dances, prayers, spirituality of each of these indigenous groups.