A Penang-Based Teacher’s Passion To Celebrate Gawai Festival Every Year

The villagers of  Kampung Taee complete in the traditional regalia take part in the ‘birarak’ or procession held annually with the Gawai Dayak celebration.This predominant Bidayuh village about 65km from Kuching attracts people from all over with its traditional celebrations. 

SERIAN: Every Gawai Dayak festival, Rumpun Evy Ningon tries her level best to return to her roots to celebrate the Harvest Festival with her familiy and relatives in Kampung Taee here.

Catching up with them means the 58-year-old teacher of Bidayuh descent crosses the South China Sea to celebrate thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest of paddy.

Evy, 58, has been based in Penang for 37 years where she teaches the disabled and the annual Gawai festival gives her the reason to return to her village and partake in the traditional festival.

She also ensures her children are well-versed in the traditional celebration of the Gawai festival at her village located about 65km from Kuching.

“I may not be able to return home for every Gawai festival, but at least, I try my level best to do so. The festivity at the village is special for me as I get to wear the complete traditional Bidayuh costume and join in the ‘birarak’ or procession which is its annual event,” she told Bernama.

The Gawai Dayak procession in Kampung Taee began in the 1980s to promote the Bidayuh culture to locals and visitors.

The procession comprises villagers in traditional wear, as well as tourists, while accompanied by the beating of traditional music.

For this procession, Evy is joined by her two sons, sister-in-law who is from the ‘Orang Ulu’ tribe, and other relatives, donning the traditional Bidayuh wear.

“The village is unique as, like my family, it consists of people from the Orang Ulu tribe and Chinese community,” said the mother of three boys who has also taught her children the Bidayuh language.

“Although living in Penang, my children are fluent in Bidayuh as well as Malay, Iban, English, Tamil and the Chinese language,” she added.

The Sarawak Government declared June 1 and 2 as public holidays for the Gawai Day.