KUCHING (Dec 14): The Last Ring Ladies Mural in Kota Padawan will help to promote tourism in Padawan with its strategic location on a wall of Kota Padawan Mall which faces the main Kuching-Serian Road, said Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.
He said with Kota Padawan serving as the gateway to tourism attractions such as Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, Annah Rais Bidayuh Longhouse, Semadang Kayaking site, Ulu Bengoh tourism site and so on, the mural will seem as though the Bidayuh Ring ladies are welcoming visitors to the area.
“The idea for the mural, titled ‘Dayung Hmuai Semban’ or ‘The Beautiful Ladies of Semban’, came about following the premiere of Sarawakian-made documentary ‘The Last Ring Ladies’ on international broadcasting channels NHK (Japan), KBS (Korea), and PTS (Taiwan) since August 2019. This documentary also premiered on TVS Sarawak on November 4 this year.
“Measuring at 13.7m x 36.5m, this is the largest mural in Kuching. Painting of the mural started on June 30 and was completed on Sept 30 this year,” he said at the launching of the Last Ring Ladies Mural and 24th anniversary celebration of Padawan Municipal Council (MPP) here today.
He said the mural, which was painted by local muralist Leonard Siaw, features the traditional Semban ladies with their ‘Ruyank’ng’ and ‘Rasunk’ng’ which embodied the distinctive culture of the Bi’embhan, a sub-ethnic of Bidayuh from Ulu Bengoh, in Sarawak.
“The ‘Ruyank’ng’ and ‘Rasunk’ng’ are the copper coiled rings worn respectively on the forearms and calves. These rings are traditionally considered majestic to Bidayuh ladies, who put them on at a very young age.
“It has become part of the daily dress up which also symbolises beauty and nobility,” he said, adding that this unique tradition can be traced back to the traveling Chinese traders who brought copper to Borneo.
The ladies in the mural are also seen wearing their traditional costumes consisting of ‘Bulang Sebi’ (headgear), ‘Tumbih’ (necklaces), ‘Kain Ngumban’ (red sash), ‘Sisink’ng and ‘Wi’ (belts), ‘Baju Putang’ (blouse), and ‘Jemuh Sulam’ (skirt/sarong), which are known as the unique tradition of ‘Dayung Hmuai Semban’.
Abdul Karim said there are only a handful of Ring ladies left in Sarawak namely Peluk Abel, Tawud Luhan, Nyukan Genyai, Nyadi Dolah and Singai Nekan.
“They are aged from 69 to 94 and in 2010, there were eight of them. In 2015, only six were left and today, only five of them,” he said.
He said the ladies, who are members of the Kampung Semban cultural troupe, are often invited to perform at state, national and international events including ITB Berlin, the largest international tourism mart in the world last year.
The Youth and Sports Minister commended Siaw for a great job in painting the mural, which took 13 weeks to complete.
“We are very proud that he is also a Sarawakian and he is an acclaimed mural artist and street artist who has made a name for himself in this region.
“It was real hard work under the mercy of tropical weather but I believe it is a satisfying job on the giant mural,” he said.
The Last Ring Ladies mural project, supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, MPP, NG Picture and Dian Kiara Sdn Bhd, was officiated by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
Also present were Local Government and Housing Minister Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian; Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture permanent secretary Hii Chang Kee; Kuching South City Council (MBKS) Mayor Dato Wee Hong Seng; Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) Mayor Datu Junaidi Reduan; and MPP chairman Lo Khere Chiang and deputy chairman Datuk Ahmad Ibrahim.