Hari Gawai, some years ago

One of the things I love about my home region is how it’s home to so many unique cultures. Even in countries that I know well, like Malaysia, I never run out of things to do, people to meet or things to learn. In 2007 or so I went to Sarawak, one of the two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo, and lived with a local Indigenous family. June 1 of each year is usually the day of Gawai itself, which concludes the harvest season, but as many people return home from the city or even from other villages, it’s also a time for merrymaking and reconnecting with family and friends. Festivities can go on for a month or more.

Read more here. It can be difficult to arrange without an ‘in’ to the community. Some people go to the traditional tattoo artists in Kuching and ask if they can get a tattoo, AND be invited to their family celebrations (with adequate payment, of course).

We were lucky to have been invited. Way too much local alcohol was made and consumed, and while my liver can’t make this type of journey anymore (since I no longer drink), I have many fond memories of the longhouse we stayed in, and the families we met.

a color photograph of a young woman dressed in traditional Iban dress for the harvest festival

A young woman dressed in traditional Iban dress for Hari Gawai.

a color photograph of a child looking on smiling as his cousins run by

A child looks on as his cousins play, in a long house. We slept with everyone, with a mattress pulled out, on one side of the long house.

a color photograph of a person rowing a longtail boat

Getting there required expert navigation of the Skrang river. We were in good hands with the penghulu himself, and his sons, carrying us up the river from a small town a few hour away.

All photos taken on Canon 50D.

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Adrianna Tan @skinnylatte
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