PRESS STATEMENT 1 JUNE 2013
SELAMAT HARI GAWAI!
Gawai Dayak is a festival celebrated in Sarawak on the 1st of June every year. It is both a religious and social occasion to honor the Dayak people, which include the Iban, Bidayuh, Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit and Murut tribes; as a source of national pride and as a way to reciprocate social hospitality extended by the other races during their festivals. On this day, the Dayak people would partake in “ngabang”, an Iban word which means to visit friends and relatives.
Gawai Dayak was first celebrated on 1st June 1965 and became a symbol of unity, aspiration and hope for the Dayak community. Today, it is an integral part of their social life. It is a thanksgiving day marking good harvest and a time to plan for the new farming season or activities ahead.
The Traditional Gawai Dayak Ceremony
The festival begins on the evening of May 31 with traditional music and “Muai Antu Rua” – a ritual aimed at keeping the spirit of greed from ruining the celebration. During this ritual, two men drag a basket along the longhouse; families in each room throw clothing and household items into the basket. The basket is later dumped on the ground as a “sacrifice” to prevent interference from evil spirits.
At sundown, the festival chief sacrifices a chicken to show thanks for a good harvest and to ask the same for next year’s rice harvest. Dinner – usually accompanied by bamboo-steamed rice and sweet cakes made from coconut milk – is served after the sacrifice. Just before midnight a procession known as the “Ngalu Petara” passes by seven times to welcome the friendly spirit gods to the festival. At midnight, the festival chief holds a toast with “tuak” – locally-brewed rice wine – for longevity. The festival turns into an informal free-for-all following the toast with dancing, singing, and drinking.
Gayu Guru, Gerai Nyamai, Senang Lantang Nguan Menua!
May today bring you much merriment, longevity, good health and ample prosperity!
On behalf of MASCA Victoria 2012/2013,
Sharifah Alia Alsagoff