Tabi basa & greetings everyone. Today I’d like to share about my journey done on 31st of May and 1st of June, which is Gawai day. Most of these are from Bidayuh’s perspective of Gawai.
Gawai itself is celebrated by Dayak peoples of Borneo. That includes Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu. Orang Ulu itself is a term used in Sarawak only. You won’t hear that term being used at Kalimantan.
In some Bidayuh dialect, Biatah for example, Dayak means people.
Who is Bidayuh peoples?
Bi- prefix means “people of”. Example: Bi-Pichin = Pichin People. Bi-Tebakang = Tebakang people.
Dayuh (pronounced da-yeh) means land.
Therefore, Bidayuh means Land People.
Bidayuh, in simple, is a group of indigenous peoples originally residing at Kuching, Samarahan & Serian. The Salako & Rara group joined Bidayuh group in the 1970s according to DBNA, which stands for Dayak Bidayuh National Association.
As for demographic, Bidayuh is only the fourth largest group in Sarawak, where about 54% of Sarawak population consisting of Iban, followed by Malay and Chinese peoples.
Within Bidayuh itself, there are about 24 sub-ethnics, depending on its region, which four main dialect groups, namely, Bau-Jagoi, Biatah, Serian (Bukar-Sadong) and Salako.
That’s why, when Bidayuh peoples from different region meet each other, they tend to use non-Bidayuh language, which includes English, Malay or Iban. It’s easy to make fun of this fact, but truth be told, it is not easy to change the status quo without considerable effort.
What Does Gawai Mean for Bidayuh?
For Bidayuh, and Dayaks in general, Gawai means New Year, because it is usually done after all harvesting, especially paddy, is done.
It marks the time for Dayaks to rest and give thanks to our seven gods (iju tampa). Who are those seven gods of Bidayuh? That’s a good question.
Just like Ibans as well, we used to have a different Gawai for different occassion. In fact, we have more similarities than you think, be it from linguistic or cultural. But probably need more research on this, or better still, ask the experts.
Biradang at Sejijag
My journey took me to Kpg Sejijag Plaman, which is another village not far from my village, Kpg Pichin.
Biradang is an annual event for Sejijag peoples. This time, they got tayan “bridge” to be used by village peoples to go to the “ntangan” for Gawai celebration.
Before biradang, men’s group will gather, take some photo before they walk to the Gawai area.
During biradang, it is the women folk who “ngadang dari”. When “ngadang”, they serve men with drinks, and some brought local delicacies.
If you are one of those joining the “biradang”, and you are not alcohol drinker, you may respectfully decline though some of them serve soft drinks or plain water.
After biradang, it is tme for catechist to pray for a good harvesting year at Kpg Sejijag Plaman, wherever their folks might be.
Once completed, I grab a quick dinner at Babuk Cici’s house and drove back to my kampung, Kpg Pichin for Gawai celebration there.
Blackout at Kpg Pichin
Upon my arrival home, it was blackout due to some unknown reason. Probably overload or some issue somewhre. I freshen up and make my way to Awah Gawai Tun Razak Kpg Pichin.
Ngampan Gawai (Waiting for Gawai)
Upon my arrival at Awah Gawai (this can be roughly translated to Gawai’s venue), they are about to start with rosary, because for Catholics, May is the month of Rosary.
That’s why, even though we celebrate Gawai, a symbolic to our people’s culture, we still prioritise our faith first.
The end of rosary marks the end of the celebratory phase. But Gawai is not official until it is officiated by our elders, in this case, village chief, Ketua Kampung Rioi.
In this symbolic, a “kirasek” (Bidayuh mat) was unrolled by the elders to mark Gawai opening. Some area calls it “kirasah”, but for me, it is naturally caled “kirasek”.
At 12am, we stopped for a while to sing Negaraku & Ibu Pertiwiku, to welcome Gawai. National & State flag is raised, too.
The merry-making going on until 3 am in the morning because there is church services at 8.30am.
I’ve also included some of the Gawai mass picture here.