KUCHING: Former Dewan Rakyat senator Datuk Seri Doris Brodie has called for continued efforts to preserve the Gawai tradition and culture to ensure it would not lose its authenticity and meaning in the future.

She also stressed the importance of Dayak youths to be encouraged to understand and appreciate it.

“Dayaks comprise not less than 25 ethnic groups who celebrate many types of Gawai. The Iban alone celebrates Gawai Antu, Gawai Batu, Gawai Kenyalang just to name a few.

Doris Brodie

“However, Gawai which is celebrated on June 1 every year since it was officially gazetted in 1965, is traditionally a day to express gratitude to recognise and mark a bountiful rice harvest for the Dayaks,” she told New Sarawak Tribune recently.

Doris said Gawai is thus a religious occasion to many Dayaks who haven’t embraced Christianity.

“To the rest, it is a social occasion where family members and relatives get together normally over a variety of sumptuous food including ‘pansoh’, ‘penganan’, ‘lulun’ etc,” she said.

She said the traditional rice wine (tuak) is almost a must-serve drink especially for the Iban community.

On the dresses, Doris recalled during her younger days, most people were dressed in their traditional costumes during Gawai Day, especially in the longhouses where Gawai is celebrated pompously.

“Display of pua kumbu in every household is a must.

“In the modern days, people just dress according to their mood and style. However, many still incorporate Dayak ethnic motifs in their fashion designs,” she said.

Doris went on to point out that the Miring ceremony, which is the epitome of the Iban tradition, and usually done by the Iban Community to honour and thank the ‘petara’ (gods), spirits and ancestors for their blessings and guidance by those who still hold to this belief.

Meanwhile, ngajat, ‘bepantun’ and ‘betaboh’ are amongst the many things the Dayaks will perform during Gawai festivals.

“In these modern times, karaoke singing and modern dancing also find their slots amongst the merry making activities in the longhouses,” she commented.

Though times have changed, Doris said that Gawai is a time for Sarawakians to come together regardless of whatever divides or differences they may have.

“It should also be a time to reflect on the past and to make plans and adjustments for the betterment of the future,” she said.

“I wish to take this opportunity to wish all my fellow Dayaks a blessed Gawai Dayak celebration. May the spirit of Gawai bring us better understanding and hopes for the future; Gayu Guru Gerai Nyamai.”