Despite of being stress with my final year project, I am very excited of designing my new Bidayuh costume for this year’s Gawai. Wearing the traditional costume on Gawai festival night has been my favourite part of Gawai. What is so great about it? I feel like a honoured Bidayuh maiden, just like in the famous modern Malay sayings, “perempuan Bidayuh terakhir” as in the film “Perempuan Melayu Terakhir” starred by Vanida Imran quite a long time ago (Ready your bucket for puking earlier next time before reading my entry).
Hereby, I want to share to you about the traditional Bidayuh costume. I can see there are still many Malaysians who do not know how the Bidayuh costumes look like, or cannot differentiate it with the other ethnics’ costume. Some even think that Dayaks wear leaves to cover their body and as loincloth (according to my experience, I had met one who think as such).
Male Bidayuh traditional costume comprises the loincloth, or locally called ‘chawat’, a vest that is made of the inner bark of trees, head band which is usually red or black in colour and some accessories. However, nowadays, this kind of costume is only worn by the Bidayuh men during performing the ritual or traditional dance and Keling contest. Keling contest is like a Dayak ‘beauty peagent’ contest for men. The name of the contest is derived from a love story of a legendary handsome man named Keling, who married a beautiful and talented maiden named Kumang.
|Bidayuh maidens if Kampung Pichin|
The female Bidayuh costume is mainly black in colour, but some are red, with borders of contrast colour. Black suits are always bordered with red, yellow, gold or silver, while the red ones are bordered with black or gold. The reason of preference of certain border colours is simply the conformation of the colours. These colours are also natural, because in the olden days, Dayaks dyed their fabrics with dyes that are derived from natural sources such as turmeric and accessorize their dress with beads, silver and gold.
|My sister and who-else|
|Kumang beauty peagent contestants posing in the "Awah Gawai"|
“A foreigner sympathetic to Dayak ways of life, and not only to its superficial particulars, can only deplore the nearly complete abandonment of this ancient and beautiful dress. I have especially wished to write this article in defence of it because of the remarks of persons who flaunt the Penan loincloth as a symbol of alleged Dayak "primitivity" (whatever that means) and unwillingness to conform to "progress." The argument that the loincloth is even "uncivilized" will not hold water.”Let me translate it to Malay:
“Orang asing bersimpati terhadap gaya hidup orang Dayak, bukan sahaja pada perkara remehnya, hanya mampu kesal dengan pengabaian pakaian yang usang dan indah ini. Saya telah berhasrat untuk menulis artikel ini demi mempertahankannya. Ini adalah kerana terdapat segelintir orang yang beranggapan bahawa cawat orang Penan ialah simbol kehidupan Dayak yang kolot (apa-apa je lah) serta tidak seiring dengan “kemajuan”. Percanggahan pendapat tentang cawat ini malah "tidak bertamadun" serta tidak berpatutan.”