Thursday, June 01, 2017

Kaamatan and Gawai Harvest Festivals - Celebrating with thanksgiving

OVER the years, our fellow Malaysians from Sabah and Sarawak have assimilated themselves into life in the peninsula. Many have moved to big cities to work and carve a modern livelihood for themselves.

But if there is one time in the year when we see them returning to their long houses, villages or ancestral homes, it would be during Pesta Kaamatan and Gawai Dayak.

Considered as sacred celebrations, Pesta Kaamatan in Sabah, and Gawai, as it is known in Sarawak, are rice harvest festivals in honour of the traditions and ancestors of people in the two states.

The festivals are a day of giving thanks to the gods for a good harvest and humbly requesting for it to continue. The spirit of the padi plant is believed to represent the all powerful source of life and existence.

Rituals are performed to ensure continuous abundant harvests and to keep natural disasters away.

Every year, young women in Sabah will doll up in traditional attire and participate in a beauty contest to vie for the title of Kaamatan Queen, in honour of Huminudon, who sacrificed herself to the earth to save her people from famine.

The Petronas Harvest Festival commercial this year takes place in Sarawak, and it begins with a large family gathering to have their meal. Suddenly a group of kids leave to go swimming in a nearby river.

The kids are none other than Anang and her friends, an urban Iban girl who has returned to her village to celebrate Gawai.

Ismail Kamarul, who directed the commercial, says the abundance of sustenance, which we often take for granted, has to be earned with hard work and sacrifice.

Shot at the Lily Longhouse in Kanowit, near Sibu, Ismail wants to highlight this by creating awareness among children on the wastage of food.

He says children have to realise that it takes a great amount of effort to grow padi so that they can have rice on their plates everyday.