Dayak NGO condemns “dirty dancing” during Gawai Dayak Dinner, calling it desecration

A screengrab taken from the video clip of the dance performance.

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KUCHING, June 16: Dayak National Congress (DNC) has condemned the “dirty dancing” performance at a Gawai Dayak Dinner held in Sibu recently, describing it as a “desecration to the sanctity of the Gawai celebration”, which in essence is a thanksgiving festival.

Demanding an apology, its president Paul Raja expressed disappointment and regret over the Gawai dinner function.

A short clip of skimpily dressed young girls with provocative dance moves performing on the stage during the function has made its rounds on social media.

Paul said there has been an uproar from the Dayak community over the manner in which the dinner was carried out.

“Everyone is most welcomed to celebrate the Gawai festival, including non-Dayaks in the spirit of national unity and mutual respect.

“All know that the Gawai festival is celebrated by the Dayak community – Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu basically as a thanksgiving festival to God for the blessings, health and prosperity that the community has experienced for the past one year.

“Whether in the longhouse or in the urban setting, Gawai celebration is done in respect, sacred, solemn together with joy and festivities.

“It has never been part of the Gawai celebration where lurid dances with sexual overtones are presented. The costumes used on the Gawai celebration, though moderate in fashion was never meant to be lurid,” said Paul in a statement today.

He claimed that the performance has been condemned by the community all over the country and even beyond the border from Kalimantan, Indonesia.

“We are not against anyone who wants to exercise their freedom of expression through their other forms of dance at the appropriate venue; but not in a Gawai Dayak festival. To present a lurid dance with sexual connotations may amount to desecration of the Gawai festival.

“We advise all those who want to celebrate the Gawai festival to make sure that their activities during the festival do not offend the sensitivities of the Dayak community.

“In fact, for that matter, we must all respect each other’s customs and festivals. If we are to live in a harmonious society, please learn about the culture and customs of the other communities, so that we know what is proper and what is not,” said Paul.

For those who want to learn more about the Gawai Dayak celebration, he said the Majlis Adat Istiadat or the Dayak community leaders are always available for consultation and advice.

He understood that building a nation is never easy but it is fulfilling if everyone can learn for each other; respect each other and support each other.

“It will be appropriate that those who have offended the Dayak community do come forward and apologise to the community and make amends.

“We hope that everyone is reminded and not to repeat the same mistake again in the future. Let us all learn and respect each other, even in the midst of our celebrations,” said Paul. — DayakDaily