Being one of the main tribes in Brunei Darussalam, the Puak Kedayan is well known for their uniqueness in terms of culture; their distinctive language; and also their traditional outfits. One of their most well-known annual celebrations would undoubtedly be the ‘Makan Tahun’ (Annual Feast). This premier celebration has been the much-awaited feasting event for the Kedayan community living in Bekenu, Sarawak.
‘Makan Tahun’ is an important thanksgiving event held to show gratitude over a successful harvest season. It has also become symbolic for maintaining unity within the Kedayan people where their kin, whether near or far, would gather together for the once-a-year gathering.
From November 18 to 19, 2017; the Kedayan Association held the ‘Makan Tahun Perdana’ in Sibuti, Bekenu, Sarawak. The event was attended not only by the locals, but their brethren from places like Spitiang, Labuan, Miri and of course, the Brunei Kedayan as well.
Officiation of the grand feast was done by the Limbang-born Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, who emphasized on the spirit of ‘gotong-royong’ (teamwork). The sense of togetherness and unity is a recurring theme for the ‘Makan Tahun’ where each of the villagers has a role to play in the preparation of the foods – ‘Makan Tahun’ is the time when everyone gets involved regardless of age or gender. Accompanying the ‘Makan Tahun’, a ‘Malam Kebudayaan’ (Cultural Night) was also held as a side event for the visitors.
As the name implies, the ‘Malam Kebudayaan’ involves mainly in exposing the traditional culture of ‘Makan Tahun’ for the younger generation. This effort aims for a complete revival of the declining traditional customs of the Kedayan people. Apart from showcasing their cultural heritage, the cultural night also became a means to strengthen the bonds amongst the Kedayan community. The goal was achieved when everyone began introducing and sharing traditional foods such as the ‘wajid’, ‘penyaram’ and ‘suabai’, as well as traditional games and their colourful costumes.
During the event, the ‘Junjung’ or farm huts competition liven the place even further. Villagers from their respective zones carved outstanding structures made from wood, bamboo and nipah leaves; all of which reflected their identity as a Kedayan. Some of the elders also showed their talent in crafting leaves into different forms such as handbags, birds and even a helicopter. The attendees were treated to an array of food presented at this ‘Junjung’ which includes buffalo meat, ‘pais ikan’, ‘sambal tahai’, ‘umbut kelapa’ and plenty more traditional cuisine.
The ‘Makan Tahun Perdana’ became a gateway into the past for the Kedayan community where every smell, atmosphere and setting resembled closely to those of the former ‘Makan Tahun’ held by their ancestors. Furthermore, it was also a great opportunity to get the younger generations acquainted with their ancestral roots and customs. Even through the ever changing world of modernization, the Kedayan community hoped to sustain their unique traditions for the generations to come.