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Gearing up for Gawai

Even with COVID-19 putting many things to a halt, including big gatherings for festive celebrations, it failed to dampen the spirit and mood of those who celebrate them. The Conditioned Movement Control Order (CMCO) certainly is not a stopping factor for the Dayak folks here in Sarawak to get into a full-on Gawai mode. Though there will be no big Gawai celebrations and no ngabang (visiting) this year, many are still preparing to celebrate the coming Gawai Dayak on June 1. But instead of having open house, everyone will be celebrating at home with their family.

Gawai goodies

What’s interesting about this year’s Gawai Dayak is that people are going back to making their own Gawai goodies instead of buying them. With a lot of time to spare due to the enforcement of the CMCO, many are deciding to try their hands at making traditional (and some modern) treats to enjoy on Gawai Day.

A scroll down our social media news feed revealed some Sarawakians already baking and frying up a storm. Some Gawai must-haves posted on social media include Kuih Jala (crispy deep fried batter made with rice flour and gula apong), Kuih Cap (also called kuih rose because of its rose-like shape achieved by dipping a rose mould in batter and deep-frying the batter to a crisp). Some have also gotten busy making cakes such as Sarang Semut and banana cake.

Kuih Jala during Gawai
Kuih Jala

Kuih Cap during Gawai
Kuih Cap

Sarang Semut during Gawai
Kuih Sarang Semut

Banana cake during Gawai
Banana cake

A whole lot of culture

Gawai merriments have become less traditional lately, as people become more urbanised. But with COVID-19 ruining plans to go ngabang or join big Gawai events, people have somehow shifted their focus towards bringing back traditional cultural elements for a more authentic Gawai celebration at home.

Some are already trying on their traditional attire to see if they still fit nicely. Others are busy spring-cleaning and decorating their living spaces with heirloom pieces like traditional brassware and basketry to give their home a Gawai feel.

Setting the perfect tone

Gawai would not be complete without music to set the mood just right. By now, many have already made their playlist of songs to play during Gawai day. Some Gawai favourites include “Poco Poco Ari Gawai” by Rickie Andrewson & Melissa Francis, “Indu Bebari Gawai” by Andrewson Ngalai & Swaylin, “Selamat Gawai Ndug Simua” by Harry, M. Bujoi, Peter James & Stephanie and the very timeless “Nyaboh – La La Hey” by Mike Rantai.

Gawai “together”

While most will be celebrating Gawai with their family at home, some are making plans to celebrate it “together” with their friends via video conferencing apps like Zoom or WhatsApp video calls. This way, ngabang is still possible, albeit virtually. All one needs to do is get dressed in their traditional attire, lay out some Gawai food, pour some tuak and do a video call with your friends so you can enjoy great “face to face” conversations over some delicious Gawai grubs.

So have you started preparing for Gawai?

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