Dayak’s Gawai Festivals in West Kalimantan

Gawai are thanksgiving celebrations of the different Dayak tribe of Kalimantan, held to thank the gods for the rice harvest. It is the best occasion to see authentic Dayak traditional costumes and dances. They are usually attended by different delegations coming from every corner of the province, and sometimes even all Borneo.

Naik Danggo

Naik Danggo is a gawai held every year either near Pontianak, or near Landak and attended by delegations from all over West Kalimantan. I attended 2018 edition, it was very impressive and colorful.

In the morning, the different delegations arrive on the site of the parade. Each one is traditionally dressed and brings along an offering.

Gawai Kalimantan

It is the best moment to admire the magnificient attires of all participants :

Gawai West Kalimantan
The best dancer of the day

Some details :

Usually in Indonesia, women wear the most impressive attires, but when it comes to Dayak, men really steal the show :

Tatoo are not as widespread as they used to be, espacially on women. Still, some efforts are made to preserve this heritage :

For the ceremony opening, a group of young dancers offered a performance showing their gratitude to an old god (Jubata) for the harvest :

After that, all the different villages attending the ceremony offered a great parade. One by one they came to bring their offering to the long-house replica, dancing on the way. Truly a great show.

My favorite village for the day :

More villages :

Traditional musicians add to the atmosphere :

National TV was there to cover the event. A large tent has also been set up for the honorous guests, including the then governor of West Kalimantan Cornelis M.H. and his daughter Karolin Margret Natasa, the regent of Landak, who was campaigning to succeed her father as the province governor. She gave a long campaign speech, but she lost to the mayor of Pontianak the next month.

I saw a couple of dancer falling into trance :

Gawai Kalimantan

On the afternoon, a dance competition was organized. The female participant were evaluated on the dance itself but also on the pounding of the rice which was the central theme.

I was a bit tired and choosed not to attend the events of the second day.

A schedule of Gawai festival in West Kalimantan

Gawai festival are really a must see of a trip to Kalimantan. The season begins in April and ends somewhere in July.

The regional tourism office in Pontianak have a lots of information on their schedules. Feel free to get to their office in Pontianak. Plenty of information too on Bombastic Borneo.

For 2018 here are the informations I collected :

  • 27-28th April : Naik Danggo (locations changes every year, either near Pontianak, either near Landak)
  • May 18 : Gawai in Sintang
  • May 18 : Gawai Kayan Mendalam near Putussibau
  • 20-24 May 2018 : Gawai in Pontianak
  • 15-17 June 2018 : Nyobeng Sebujit near Bengkayang, dramatic ceremony where old human skulls are taken out and bathed.
  • June 06 : Gawai festival in Benua Tengah longhouse near Sintang
  • July 2018 : Gawai in Sanggau
  • October 2018 : art festival in Pontianak (23/10) and Landak (09-12/10)
  • November 2018 : Gawai in Ketapang

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