Old woman Y Kyih and ‘treasure of gongs’

Eighty-two-year-old woman Y Kyih of Ro Ngao ethnic group now owns the most number of gongs in Kon Tum Central Highlands province. As she is now getting older and living alone, it is necessary to give more care and protection to her and to her collection of gongs.

Old woman Y Kyih is now keeping three sets of gongs. She bought the first set of gongs in 1972 when she was a folk dancer of the village troupe. At that time, the villagers did not have any set of gongs, so they had to borrow gongs from the neighbouring village for their festivals. She spent her own money to buy a set, including 11 gongs. She bought another set of 10 gongs in 1981. Up until 1986, she bought another set with 13 gongs worth VND 11 million. Not having enough money, she had to bring cows and gold to change for the gongs. 

Many people have come to ask old woman Y Kyih to sell them the gongs but she refused. As poor as she was, old woman Y Kyih did not sell the gongs as “they have been so close to her life”. Whenever the village organises the festivals, people have come to borrow her gongs.

Her gongs are not o­nly found many in quantity but also better in quality as compared with others. Their tones and echoes are in good tune with the singing voices of boys and girls in the village.

On November 24, 2005, the Central Highlands gongs were recognised by the UNESCO as world heritage. Hearing the news, gong owners in Kon Tum, particularly old woman Y Kyih, are very happy but they are still very worried because 11 sets with over 150 gongs in Kon Tum have been stolen so far. even though these cases of theft have been resolved, the ethnic minority people in the region are still very concerned over the thefts of their gongs.Old woman Y Kyih and ‘treasure of gongs’

Old woman Y Kyih and her family are also very worried and fear that her gongs will be stolen as she is now living o­n her own (her husband died in 1995).

It’s hoped that the Kon Tum administration will have effective measures to protect valuable treasure of gongs of old woman Y Kyih.

Nhan Dan