Many scholars have described individualism as one of the main characteristics of the Iban. If this is the case, then how is it possible that the people who have this characteristic are able to live side-by-side in the longhouse?

Some scholars have also described equalitarianism as the other main characteristic of the Iban. But then how is it possible to maintain peace, harmony, and respect for one another in the longhouse when everyone entertains the opinion that everyone is equal. If everyone is equal how is it possible that a leadership can be provided in a longhouse?

How is it possible to sustain a longhouse system when everyone displays a spirit of individualism and equalitarianism?

One longhouse may consist of as many as 30 families or more with each family having their own family compartment. One family compartment is made up of the kitchen, the living room (bilik), the corridor (tempuan), the ruai (hall), the panggau (platform), and the tanju (drying area). Most traditional longhouse has 2 storeys.

The different between the longhouse and the terraced house or a town house as it is known in some western countries is that – even though the tempuan, the ruai, the panggau and the tanyu are maintained separately by the individual family unit – everyone in the longhouse can have access to them.

Unlike for the living room and the kitchen, there are no walls separating the tempuan, the ruai, the panggau and tanyu of each family compartment from the other family compartment. One can walk from one end of the longhouse to the other end of the longhouse through each of these 4 sections of a family compartment without the need to ask for permission from its owner.

gawai

It is within these 4 sections of the longhouse that the major cultural, traditional and customary activities are held.

During the Gawai Dayak celebration, everyone is out at the ruai or at the panggau. The ladies will sit at the ruai, while the men will sit at the panggau. The ruai is also where the foods and the drinks will be served.

The Gawai Dayak celebration should be a time for festivity, merriment, enjoyment and fun, but at the same time must be done within the spirit of the community’s customs, as well respect and honour for one another.

Politics and the things than can divide the community or the things that can make the Gawai Dayak celebrations less fun and enjoyment, and not in accordance with the community’s peaceful and harmonious traditions and customs must not be practised and be made to become a part of the Gawai Dayak tradition.

It is good to know that the Dayak are now celebrating the cultural gawai where the community is showing to the world its tradition, customs, and how to have funs in a peaceful, harmonious, and respectful manner.

The idea to make June 1st every year a public holiday in Sarawak so that the Dayak can celebrate their uniqueness and the world can recognise and acknowledge them as an ethnic group is a political decision.

The community, however, should not replicate the political gawai of the past, and with the new state leadership, now – as Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah, the State Deputy Chief Minister I has rightly said – is the time for the community to move forward. – Sarawakvoice.com