Friday, January 16, 2009

Dayak Selakau - The Lost and Found Tribe in Sarawak (Part 3)

Gold Arawana Reveals the Gawai Celebration of Dayak Selakau

"Panyangahant" give his offering (Babuis/Nyangahant) to their God (Jubata) on Gawe. In front of him is "Pabuisant", a traditional altar for the offering

Gawe In Selakau Tradition

This is my third publication about the lost and found of among the smallest tribe in Sarawak. Before going further on writing, I just to make it clear that my description on this matter is just very basic information. Being one of the tribe, lives and grow in kampong, it just a matter of sharing information and experience on the beauties of Dayak Selakau traditions and culture. Either it is considered as primitive in this modern world, I do believe that there must an appreciation to the olden believes. This is actually the real world that later on creates a better world to the younger generation.

As for Egypt, it was remembered as a great civilization because it was documented. It might not proper documentation, however still readable and understandable by the historians even after thousand of years in mystery. Therefore, for this smallest tribe in Sarawak, it is crucial for the professional journalist on proper documentation so that it will not extinct by the modification and modernization of its surroundings culture. Hence, for the readers, who think to take this article as a reference, I suggest that further research being made for confirmation.

For Dayak Selakau, there are lots of Gawai. This is the way they expressed their gratitude to God. This include from birth to circumcision (as a mark that a boy is becoming a man), marriage to medication, and finally to death. As for all the Gawai, it’s not much different on the foods and preparation. The protocols are almost similar to all of the events. However, I believe that there are differences on the offering. Gawai in Selakau can be categorized into two type based on how grand it will be celebrated. It is called Gawe Kayak (means big celebration) and Gawe Kenek (means in medium celebration). Gawe kayak normally celebrated in longer period, longer offerings and means that more guests and expenditure. For Gawe Kenek, it is on the opposite of the Gawe Kayak and normally only attended by closed neighbors and relatives.

The celebration including of preparation normally will takes about one week. The grand celebration, however will take about 3 nights and four days. When the head of family has decided on the date for his Gawe, he will meet the “Pengarah Uma”, whose normally is the head of the village. Pengarah Uma than will conformed on the date and called a meeting (normally in night time), two days before the events (Ari kayak).

In the meeting, Pengarah Uma or his representatives will distributed the responsibilities to the villagers. It is actually a simple concept, men responsible for collecting the bamboo and women responsible to collect a plant called by the locals as “abuant” and “daukng minyak”. These three natural equipments are the compulsory equipments for the event. The meeting than decided on who will be the “penyangahant” (man responsible for offering ceremony). Panyangahant for gawe kayak normally needs two people, one on living room called “samikh” and another one in “biik”.

The date of events for gawe consider as on the evening before the grand celebration. This is called as “Umarek Gawe”. From the early morning, the villagers assemble at the organizer’s house and start to move on their activities as have been decided in the previous meeting. For those not in the working committee, they have other important task to do. The men normally will assist on preparation of pig (or enyekng in Selakau language), chickens (or Manok in Selakau language) and temporary huts as well as food preparation. Pig is a symbol of “Gawe Kayak” which differentiates it from “Gawe Kenek” which celebrates without the pig. It is a must for the offering ceremony in addition of seven numbers of chickens. Its actually significant to the more foods needed for more guest estimated. That’s why, for Gawe Kenek, pig is not a compulsory. For the women, they will cooperate with each other to produce rice flour. In olden age, they used a primitive way of producing flour, using a wooden bowl called “asukng”. Nowadays, this tradition is almost extinct as they can easily buy the ready-made rice flour from supermarket.

On the evening time, the villagers again cooperate to each other for preparation of dinner and traditional foods. The men are traditionally related to the external works including of cooking and preparation of “Poek”, a traditional Selakau food. Poek are made of glutinous rice cooked with coconut milk in bamboo. For the women, they will prepare another traditional food, “tumpik” and “Bontokng”. Tumpik is actually sweet rice flour cooked in hot oil, meanwhile bontokng is rice packed in leaves and cooked in bamboo. As I mentioned earlier, this three traditional foods are compulsory!

After dinner, “Panyangahant” will give his offering and the guest will served with the traditional foods. For most cases, the event continue with drinking session, where the guest are serve with “Langkau”, a local rice wine. Nowadays, they even extent their event through a merrier session, the “Life band”. This especially when they organized Gawe for human, normally on wedding, circumcision, “batenek” and etc…

The next morning, they wake up early, in conjunction of another session of food preparation. This time of course in bigger amount. Pig and chickens blessed and slaughter for the offering. The pig will be divided into parts, which will be distributed to the guests after the offering. When all the compulsory items are ready, the villagers than prepare for “Pabuisant”(an altar for the offering ceremony). “Babuis” means the offering ceremony, which take about one or two hours which I myself cannot remember. On this session, the household and paddy blessed for their good return.

After lunch, another special session, “Baajakng” take place. Baajakng means distribution of foods and pig to the villagers, normally based on their rank in community and relative to the house owner. The Gawe celebration is considered finished and they end it up with drinking session or gambling.

On the evening, the closing ceremony (or “Barakat”) takes place. It is another simple offering ceremony, but normally attended by the closed relatives.

The Challenges

The Gawe celebration looks naive and primitive for other races especially in this modern world. Some may believe that one day; these events will be extinct to the younger generation as the modernization of the cultures and religions. In fact, most of the equipments are from the natural resources which finally will be not easy to find especially in town. So, for the Selakau family in town, they celebrate Gawe following the modern foods and equipments, no more “poek”, no more “tumpik”, no more “bontokng” and no more “panyangahant” of course. “Langkau” is replacing by beer and liquor which are easier to buy in town. Either the eldest forget to teach the younger generation on the offering words, or the youngster refused to learn is another perplexity.


Even though on this modernization of human civilizations, our origins shall be remembered and known by the younger generation. My English is not too good for detail description, and I am not a professional photographer who can take very good photos, and I am not a good journalist that can elaborate the stories in a better ways. Hence, I do believe that one day our younger generation will ask and point their eldest for not documenting this unique celebration. And before the time comes, it is better for the authority to really pave the way to retain this lost and found celebration.

Special thanks to my brother, Stephen Mathias (Iyus), who contributes me the photos. The photos were taken during Gawe Bataah (a thanksgiving ceremony of newly born baby) in December, 2008.


Bapak Urakng said...

Dirik salako manyak gawe, maksute dirik bangsa ang basukur ngan ingat ka jubata. Jamae moden pun dirik, ame kaupaant ka asal usul dirik.

Meightz Stephent Mathias said...

welcome.. tarusant jak..
aku support.. maju salako..

Gold Arawana said...

Tarimak kasih ka sokongan kitak. Tarusant maca daam redgoldarawana....

Penemuruai said...

Hi gold Arawana,
Good article from you. Unique come to my blogspot, I`m covering Ulu Baram.

Gold Arawana said...


Thanks for your comments! Keep visiting my blog...

I have visited your blog, maybe you could reveals the culture of Penan and other small tribes in Ulu Baram...It should be very interesting!