Sunday, May 25, 2008

Selamat Gawai, Gayu Guru Gerai Nyamai

Gawai Dayak, the Iban's harvest festival is just round the corner. It falls on June 1st. In Sarawak June 1st and 2nd are public holidays to celebrate the festival. Ibans are the major group of people, making up roughly 40% of Sarawak's total population. I take this opportunity to wish all Iban friends a very happy Gawai Dayak. The above picture is my long time friend, Mr. Dickie Issac. I met Dickie in 1986 when Action Films of Hong Kong was here searching for talents to make the first ever Iban feature film. I was Production Manager for this 90-minute film which won several international awards in Hong Kong, Japan and Germany. Dickie was the main cast in the film. It took us a year to plan for the whole project but actual filming was completed in less than a month. The filming and recording crew was flown in from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Kuala Lumpur.

Many of the Iban longhouses are traditionally located along river banks. So naturally rivers are still the main means of transportation. I hopped on a motor boat this morning to Sungai Assan which is about 45 minutes from Sibu Town. Apart from the boat owner who is also the driver, I am the only other Chinese in the boat which carried about 30 passengers. The lower Sungai Assan area has 8 Iban longhouses. Although it is accessible by road via the Lanang Bridge, many people still prefer using the boat as the return boat fare at RM3 is 50% cheaper than the toll. Many of the passengers were returning from outstations to celebrate Gawai. They brought along with them families, lots of luggage and newly purchased electrical items such as refrigerator and TV .

This is one of the 8 longhouses at Sungai Assan. The bridge is linking the longhouse communities to a primary school opposite them. It is only passable by bicycles and motorcycles. If you stand in the middle of the bridge, it offers you nice views of the entire surrounding. It is particularly interesting in the early morning and evening when the river is full of activities with playful children bathing and swimming and women washing clothings.

The above pictures were scences at the kapit Wharf and Express Boat Terminal.The jetties were crowded with people, most of them Ibans, coming to Sibu and going home to their longhouses. I found out that there was an express boat departing here in every half an hour to Kanowit, Song and Kapit. These three towns in the upper Rajang are the main centres for the Iban communities. Each boat which could accommodate 60-120 passengers was fully packed with people and goods. This rush is expected to continue until the coming Saturday which is the last day before the Gawai. The modern day Gawai is celebrated much the same as we celebrate Chinese New year or Hari Raya. In true Malaysian style and hospitality, they also have open house to welcome and entertain relatives and friends from different cultural and religious background.Indeed we are fortunate to live in Sarawak where more than 20 different races live together in peace and harmony.


Tony Hii said...

Your coverage on Gawai is interesting and informative.

Bengbeng said...

haha u beat me to it..this afternoon i thought of it doing Gawai post too :) maybe when gawai is nearer :)

rubberseeds said...

Tony:Thanks and thanks for the two very large glasses of Teh Tarik,one for me and the other for my Vietnamese friend.

Bengbeng: Sure you can write on the Gawai topic again.Are you visiting any longhouse during Gawai?

saoirse said...

Nice post and many very good pictures. Thanks for sharing. :) And, hey, I always thought the river in Sibu is crystal clear, I guess the development has polluted the river ya.

rubberseeds said...

saoirse:Thanks for your comment.All major rivers in Sarawak are like teh tarik, mainly due to logging and plantation activities.It has been like that for decades.