Introducing Gawai Dayak: the Harvest Festival in Sarawak
Gawai Dayak is the celebration of the Rice Harvest Festival of the Dayak people of Sarawak, Borneo (Malaysia). Gawai Dayak translates literally to “Dayak Festival”. The Dayaks are the name given to dozens of individual ethnic tribes of the region, which are chiefly divided into two major groups: the Iban (Sea Dayak) and the Bidayuh (Land Dayak). Both celebrate Gawai on June 1st and festivities follow over the following few days.
An important part of the holiday is visiting. Families invite friends and relatives into their homes to eat some of the traditional food that have been prepared for Gawai. One of the most common is chicken rice cooked inside bamboo, sticky rice, grilled meat, and local vegetables. Alcohol is a big part of the festivities. Home made rice wine is the traditional drink of choice, but today many Dayak celebrate with beer or whiskey.
Dressing up in traditional clothes is another aspect that makes Gawai. For men, this means putting on a loincloth, animal skin for protection, headgear with hornbill feathers and weapons like shield, sword, and spear. Many men have tribal tattoos which signify their life experience and journey. Woman wear hand-woven cloth worn around the waist with a silver belt, colorful tops, and jewelry like armlets and anklets.
These photos were taken from the Harvest Festival with Bidayuh tribe members in the village of Taee in Sarawak, in the countryside not far outside of Kuching.
This just goes to show you the human and cultural diversity of Malaysia. Hope you join us for our Adventure Tour of Borneo where you’ll get to meet Bidayuh people or our Singapore & Malaysia Food & Culture tour which highlights the culture and cuisine of Peninsular Malaysia.