elongated earlobes

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Travellers to Sarawak or Kalimantan who travel into the interior area are likely to meet some people with elongated earlobes. Long earlobes were regarded as a form of beauty in the olden days by some indigenous groups in Borneo. In Sarawak, the Orang Ulu (Kelabit, Kayan) and Penan are some of the indigenous people who practised this custom. Elongated earlobes symbolized great beauty among these people and traditionally, parents start piercing their babies ears when they are one-month old. Heavy metal rings, usually made of gold or brass,  were used to elongate the earlobes. As the earlobes extend, new rings are added, and some women have more than a hundred rings which may weigh half a kilogram. Often, the earlobes extend right down to the shoulders.

As with all traditions, this one is slowly dying out. Conversion to Christianity was one of the early reasons. But nowadays, it is the influence of modern culture that defines beauty.

If you are not making a trip into the interior or visiting a longhouse, one place to see the Orang Ulu would be at the tamus (markets) where they bring their produce to sell in town. In Miri, Tamu Muhibbah is one such place.

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