Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Gawai harvest fest a time for thanksgiving, celebrating friendship

WITCHES and ravens, and crocodiles! Oh, my!” the lead actress could not have summed it up better during a recent Dayak play, which bore resemblance to The Wizard of Oz.

Like the adventure Dorothy had, Batang Arong and The Sky Goddess: When Love Hunts for Magic features a young protagonist plucked out of her charmed existence and thrown into a world of sorcery and intrigue.

As Dorothy had her magical ruby red shoes to guide her, Laleng Ubong Langit had her life-giving comb, necklace and potion.

These are the ingredients of any fantasy tale but the Dayak play, which was performed last weekend during the first day of the World Harvest Festival, is really about social togetherness.

It tells the story of a goddess, Laleng, who falls in love with a mortal. Descending from the heavens, she demands Batang Arong, the mythical Kayan hero, to secure her material possession.

In the romance story with a moral, the adventurers’ quest for wealth ultimately leads to disasters. Social order is only restored when the value of modesty is learnt.

When the goddess finally accepted humility, her arms reached up towards the sky, thankful for the most important aspect in life: Peace on earth.

It is a message that was often repeated throughout the festival, which marks the start of the Gawai Dayak holiday season.

“It is a time for friendship and happiness in Sarawak,” Assistant Tourism and Heritage Minister Datuk Talib Zulpilip said before the play at the Sarawak Cultural Village.

“This is an annual opportunity to celebrate common values, cultures and diversity. Sarawak will continue to flourish with better understanding and appreciation through festivals like this.”

Gawai Dayak, the largest celebration in the state, commemorates the end of the harvesting season and is essentially an occasion for thanksgiving.

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