it was purely coincidental that i arrived in singai on the very first day of the redeems gawai celebration for the area’s bidayuh community. it was raining that evening, but you know what they say, the show must go on and by the time we found a parking at about, er, 10pm… the place was already extremely packed with people, most of them lightly drizzled by the rain.
in all my dozens of trips trip sarawak, this would be my first gawai. so no, don’t start asking me hos the bidayuh gawai is different from the iban gawai.
right from the beginning, i was trusted into the company of AN, DC and OZ who took me visiting. gawai, if you’re new to this part of borneo, is a celebration of harvest, and is marked by a giant mass open house with loads of merry making and food and music. that’s the traditional way of eating bidayuh food – on bowls made from palm fronds. so the environmental, kan?
on a serious note, i spoke to one of the event committee members about the significance of the event. according to him, there are still some bidayuh in the area who still believe in spirits and hold to this spiritual religion of their ancestors. they are the ones go participate in prayers and trance during the festival. the larger community, who are mostly christians, join in the festival in preservation of culture.
you see, there is a realisation that someday, there will be no more pagan bidayuhs anymore. it takes a lot of sacrifice to be a bidayuh witch doctor, for example, the person needs to be ‘purified’ by not being exposed to the world for a whole year. the person will only eat certain foods and enter a state of trance to receive ‘spiritual calling.’ it is understandable but sad to learn that not many people want to accept this way of life.
and the few who are still alive and practicing are aging.
someday, he tells me, there will be no more. no more of the spiritual side of gawai when the last witch doctor dies. but that is why it is important to learn and preserve and teach as much of the culture as possible now when we are still able to witness things for ourselves. so that when the day comes, even if the spiritual part is no longer practiced, we will be able to carry on the traditions and remember the roots.
i think roots are important.
there was also a fun fair on site. i won’t say much on it. it is like any other travelling fun fair that goes around malaysia. and then there are cultural games like top spinning and blow pipe shooting.
AN took me to the crafts corner of the mini exhibition and bazaar area. yes, yes, the items on display are supposed to be for sale, but since sales are a bit slow for the very expensive cultural costumes, we thought that we would do a little advertising.
the one on the left is the bidayuh headgear and the one on the one on the right is an iban one.
i told AN that ibans scare me and she smiled. she’s iban. but she’s an acception, i told her :)
and that’s DC modelling the orang ulu headgear. the whole dress up camwhore thing happened in full view of very curious passer bys, lots of whom, i am happy to report, did stop by to buy bead necklaces and rattan fly swatters. no, i am serious.