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Let’s get to know the Iban people who celebrate the Gawai

Most of Sarawak’s population comprise of the Iban people, which constitute one third of the people. Once upon a time, the Ibans are reputed as strong warriors of Borneo. Now, they are kind, humble and calm people.

The history of people living in Malay Archipelago is that the land they live on are called “Tanah Air” which mean “Land Water”, and the reason why it is called in such a way, is because the people live in both land and sea equally, meaning they are either fisherman, pirates, or explorers.

To examine the Ibans livelihood in the past, they love to go to sea most of the time, to work as fishermen, pirates and explorers thus they are called “Sea Dayaks”. In the earlier time, the Iban migrated from Kalimantan via the Kapuas River and decided to settle their homes at Batang Ai, the Skrang River, Saribas, and the Rajang River. The Ibans lived in longhouses consisting many rooms to house many families, creating a community.

The Iban women are best in weaving the Pua Kumbu which is a traditional multi-colour patterned cotton cloth, wooden carvings and bead accessories. The Ibans are known for their creation of sweet rice wine called tuak, served during festive times.

Nowadays, the Ibans practice Christianity and Islam. The Iban celebrates festivals such as the Gawai Dayak (Harvest Festival), Gawai Kenyalang (Hornbill Festival) and Gawai Antu (festival of the dead).