Meaningful Gawai for longhouse villagers

SIBU: This year’s Gawai celebration was a meaningful one for folks of Rumah Jackson Ngumbang, Rantau Dangih, Sekuau as Tamin assemblyman Christopher Gira made a Gawai visit to the longhouse on May 31.

Christopher receives a warm welcome from the longhouse folk upon his arrival at Rumah Jackson Ngumbang.

Christopher and his entourage were warmly welcomed by the longhouse folk. Led by its chief Grace, they served a variety of traditional dishes.

During his visit to the longhouse, Christopher handed over an allocation of RM30,000 to Rumah Jacksong Ngumbang for the longhouse’s activity.

Christopher handing over an allocation of RM30,000 to Rumah Jacksong Ngumbang.

The Gawai visit to the longhouse was among the annual activities aimed at fostering closer relation with the longhouse folk.

Traditionally, the Dayak community welcomes the Gawai celebrations to give thanks to the gods for another successful harvest of the paddy, while praying for another good season.

Celebrated in the state on June 1 each year, Gawai Dayak is both a religious and social occasion.

Gawai Dayak simply means a ritual or festival celebrated by the native ethnic groups of the Iban and Bidayuh people of Sarawak and neighbouring Kalimantan of Indonesia.

Although the colourful cultural extravaganza and fiesta of the Gawai Dayak runs through June until its “Ngiling Tikai” (closing ceremony), it is the rituals, prayers and celebration to welcome Gawai that would be considered its highlights.

One of the unique things about living in the longhouse is that everyone works together.

For the Iban community, be it in the longhouse or the urban housing communities, celebration starts on the eve, on May 31 or 30 itself.

During the evening, a ceremony among the Ibans, a ceremony called “Muai Antu Ru” a (to cast away the spirit of greed) is conducted to ward off the spirit of bad luck.

Then, an offering ceremony called “miring” would take place.

The longhouse folk performing an offering ceremony called ‘miring’.

The longhouse chief or the most respected senior figure in the community would conduct the miring ritual by thanking the gods for the good harvest, asking for guidance, blessings and long life as he waves a cockerel over the offerings.

The cockerel would then be sacrificed and a little blood is used together with the offerings. Before the ceremony, “gendang rayah” (ritual music) would be performed.

Before midnight, the longhouse folk will conduct various activities such as traditional dances, feasts, games and other fun-filled activities.

On the eve of Gawai, longhouse folk conduct various activities such as traditional dances, feasts, games and other fun filled activities.

On the eve of Gawai, it is the approaching midnight that would be the main focus of the people. At the stroke of midnight, the gong would be beaten to call the celebrants to attention.

The “tuai rumah” or festival chief would lead everyone to drink the “Ai Pengayu” which is normally tuak (rice wine) to represent longevity and at the same time, to wish one another a “gayu guru, gerai nyamai” (long life, health and prosperity).

The next day, every household, be it in the longhouse or urban housing areas, would practise the tradition of “ngabang” (house visiting) in full joyful spirit.

Longhouse folk during the ‘Muai Antu Rua’ (to cast away the spirit of greed) ceremony.