Guide to Gawai Lights

The Gawai (not to be confused with the Japanese word ‘Kawaii’, which means something else completely different) is a uniquely Sarawakian harvest-cum-thanksgiving festival celebrated by the native Dayaks here every 1st June.

Hello Kitty. This pampered pussy changes into her cultural clothes every festive season. I call her the Barbie Doll cat.

Whilst the Malays are the natives (or bumiputeras) and form the dominant race in Peninsular Malaysia, the Dayaks are the dominant race in Sarawak, just as the Kadazans are the dominant race in Sabah. A lot of them are from the rural area, but have since migrated to Kuching city for work and studies.
A common misconception held is that the Dayaks are similar to Malays because it seems as if both races speak the Bahasa Melayu as their mother tongue. In actual fact, the Dayaks speak a language that is very similar but not identical to Bahasa Melayu.

Jalan Padungan. You can call it Chinatown, but Kuching city is majority Chinese anyway.

Apart from that, the Dayaks are now very modernised and drastically different to the bloodthirsty headhunters the history books tell us. Most Dayaks here practise Christianity instead of Islam. They are also bloody good alcohol drinkers, and the younger ones have damn cool English-sounding names like ‘Matthew Anderson Lockhart’.
One thing I appreciate living in Malaysia is that almost all races here get to celebrate their respective festivities. I forget how good it felt because I don’t have that kind of luxury when I was in Australia. I can personally attest that hauling your ass to work/lecture on the first day of Chinese New Year isn’t the best feeling in the world.

This is how we celebrate festivities in Kuching… by making our streets a little bit brighter.

So anyway, I was in the city last night practising my night photography skills when I noticed a particularly interesting set of decorative lights along Jalan Song Thian Chiok that seems to be telling us some story. Its a bit like pictures in the Egyptian pyramids really.
I know they’re supposed to depict customs and cultural practices of the Dayaks here. But someone not born here might not be able to understand what’s going. So here’s what they might intepret it instead.

This is a story about how the Dayaks celebrate the Gawai Festival.

All day long, the men sit on their butts smoking their big-arse Sarawakian cigarettes. What’s this Dunhill thing you’re talking about? Dunhill is for pansies. Sarawakian cigarettes are for real men, like us.

Feminism? Never heard of it. Our bitches spend their day and night rolling them big-arse Sarawakian cigarettes for us, the real men. For entertainment, we dress them up in skimpy clothes so we can watch them shake their asses while we smoke our life away. Ooh yea, baby.

And, errrr…

Usually them chicks do a good job out of it. But sometimes they don’t. So we gotta teach them a lesson, eh?

Of course the Dayaks are all really friendly people and they’re not like that at all. But decorations like that can easily be misinterpretated, eh? ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy holidays, my fellow Sarawakians.

37 Replies to “Guide to Gawai Lights”

  1. the interpretion match so damn well with the light decoration that almost makes me wonder if kenny take part time job to design those easily misinterpreted light decoration for city government…

  2. interesting and educational post. i had no idea abt dayaks and kadazans till i read this. of course now u’ve just fed me a bunch of rubbish customs told by neon lighting. tsk tsk =D

  3. AAARRRRGHHHHH !!!!! DAMN YOU SARAWAKIANS !!!! you guys can get drunk drinking your crazy ass 99% alchoholic home made bombs whilst i have to sit here in sydney listenin to gay lectures and attending classes.
    but i did get to meet a guy who worked on the special FX for ‘house of flying daggers’ tho. so i guess it aint that bad.

  4. Woah, that’s pretty cool dude. From what I’ve interpreted from your pictures and description, I’ve come up with a conclusion. Sarawak = Heaven
    p.s. Kenny, do you smoke?
    p.p.s Matthew Anderson Lockhart is a pretty darn wicked name

  5. hmm.. tsk tsk am proud to be a dayak or err iban! =p quite funny how people always misinterprate our race.
    common misinterparations:
    1. we live on trees. yes we swing from branches to branches to get to places and our house on the trees have astro.
    2. we cant speak english.
    3. we are uneducated.
    4. wtf is a dayak doing overseas? =p
    happy gawai to u too!

  6. Hey Dude, how come their hair color is blue one ? Kiching Municipal council does not have black colored light meh ? (??)

  7. Happy Gawai to all Bidayuh, Dayak and Iban!!!
    With all your population and if the democratic system ever works, you should be the king today and running the show in Sarawak. I very much hope your day will come, sooner than later.
    Happy future รขโ‚ฌยฆ.in partnership!

  8. Whoa! Educational, informative! Thanks for enlightening me bout the Sarawak cultural background. Learning bout’ it from a native (as in Sarawakian, NOT Dayak) beats reading bout it from books.
    Eh, the lighting damn nice, leh. Never thought that they could depict such interesting human forms.
    How long do you think that kick-ass gigantaur ciggies last? Is it shared amongst the men in the village..? Heh.
    Erm..any chance ‘Matthew Anderson Lockhart’ is attached? That name already made me swoon… Sigh.

  9. hehh..that is SO true, chriszie. my friend was like “do you sarawakians live on trees?”
    niways, selamat hari gawai!

  10. I know i should be offended, but after being stereotyped for so long by ignorant west malaysians who think they’re the best… im just laughing here. misconceptions… unless u come to sarawak, u will never know how we all live here. i’ll gladly volunteer to wipe that smirk off ur face (not u kenny).
    ive been asked about the hundredth times ‘do u guys live on trees?’ and after the 10th time, i just go “yeah. would u believe it? we have wireless broadband up there too.”
    But, hey Kenny… if uve never had a Gawai in a longhouse, then u havent seen it all! maybe next year huh…

  11. hahaha nice crap kenny. damn,.. you really make the lights tell a different stories.
    One annoyed sarawakian: and we also blog from a tree top.

  12. Like proud to be an Iban too. I hate ppl that judge things without witnessing it themselves! for example like if we stored any skulls at home or wat so eva!
    we invent the electric guitar ok…from ‘Sape’ to Ibanez electric guitar..LoL
    Btw, my name is quite ang mo too =)
    Happy Gawai ppl~

  13. Haha, those captions are hilarious!!! I would’ve easily believed them if I didn’t live in Malaysia, that’s for sure. I even half-believed them when I was reading it. ๐Ÿ˜› Living in Kuching seems cool! Btw, Matthew Anderson Lockhart??? Harry Potter!!!!! (you’d understand if you read harry potter) ๐Ÿ˜›

  14. Anonymus, its supposed to be a blowpipe.
    NSDS3, dunno… someone from somewhere. heh.
    Jade, that convincing am i?
    Fer + crazy, gee i won’t call it ‘cute’ per se. Its not Hello Kitty you know?
    andycjw, haha! If I’m the one doing the light decorations, I bet you the designs would be filled with ‘double meanings’.
    gracie, why thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Jin, you met with a guy who worked on the special FX for ‘house of flying daggers’? Oh. BORING! I’m gonna crack open another can of beer.
    Lyon, I have the most effective anti-smoking campaign in the form of my father’s passing so I doubt I’ll touch those cancer sticks during this lifetime of mine.
    Chrissie, oh yea have you got any recipes preparing shrunken human heads?
    jenab? AMSTERDAM? Not without legalised prostitution and hash cafes.
    e, oh yeahh… must be the new age punk Dayaks. ๐Ÿ˜€
    Pope, you and I are gonna rule the whole of Sarawak?
    ct, I suspect Matthew Anderson Lockhart might be a bit too young for you. Would you be interested in a Kenny Siatzefoo Rogers?
    fish fish, not a problem. ๐Ÿ™‚ Not matter how good Japan is, Kuching is still home eh?
    Darren, whoever feed them those information needs to have their headshrunken Sarawakian style.
    sarah, there isn’t much here compared to KL, but come if you want. ๐Ÿ™‚
    One Annoyed Sarawakian, I wouldn’t mind trying that sometime to be honest. I haven’t travelled much of rural Sarawak. The most ulu place in Sarawak I’ve been to is Serian.
    fred, I think all the Kuchingnites reading this blog is gonna think funny stuff everytime they drive down that road. ๐Ÿ™‚
    applegreen, you can’t blame them really. Blame Discovery Channel, National Geographic and their history books for out-of-date yet fascinating depiction of the Dayak race.
    Gambs, really? I’ll check out the papers.
    Cindy, Kuching is not the most exciting place compared to the big cities I’ve been to, that’s for sure. We make up for it with our crazy minds.
    lucia, I wouldn’t have a clue you know. :/
    Clarise, thanks. YOU ARE SO CUTE TOO!
    Leona, what do you expect me to say? Kenny Cat? Wahahahaha
    narrowband, according to Gwen Stefani’s song Harajuku Girls, “Super Kawaii. That means ‘Super Cute’ in Japanese!”

  15. FAQs by a West Malaysian (or any other dumbasses who doesn’t know anything about Sarawak) to a Sarawakian, and how to answer them:
    1. Do you have roads in Sarawak?
    No. We do have jungle tracks though. That is why your average family car i.e Proton Wira won’t last a week here. Almost all the Sarawakians here own at least a Hummer. That, or we take the sampan.
    2. Do you guys live on trees?
    Yes. Several families can live on a big tree. It can get quite expensive to install elevators though.
    3. Do you have KFC there?
    No. We rear our own livestock or we go on our daily hunting trip for food.
    4. Do you like, wear the same uniform to school like we did?
    No. We didn’t go to school.
    5. Do you still have headhunters there?
    Why do you think I’m here?

  16. happened to chance upon your blog, (believe-it-or-not, from a search on our 2004 ms malaysia). Does the comment bout u being a cleo bachelor if andrea fonseka was ms malaysia ring a bell??
    haha anyways was just reading a couple of your previous entries, and dude they had me totally rofl!!
    u made my day mien. =)ahaha

  17. Oi serian not ulu la. well, ulu a bit la.haha. but so peaceful and quiet bo. Every weekend kuching ppl pull their butt up there and shit at ranchan pool. haha. Hills and streams, best place in sarawak.Other than kuching.

  18. come on..if u think sarawak road isn’t good enough..come to kl any other state in west malaysia..most of the nice n smooth road need us to pay toll for enjoying it..n one with no toll is very poor constructed with tampal here n even there are some manhole with no cover..i’ve been to kuching b4 n know how good is the road there compare to here..

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