Gawai Dayak celebrations in 1971 which the second Sarawak Chief Minister attended. - Photo credit Penerangan.

Snapshots of the old Rumah Dayak in Kuching

It was said that the original Rumah Dayak was going to be rebuilt as a bigger, better commercial project in 1996. Since it was demolished the following year, however, construction has been lagging and changing developers for the better part of 20 years.

Here’s a brief snapshot of what it was like hanging out at Rumah Dayak in it’s heyday.

A Kumang Gawai from Gawai Dayak celebrations at Rumah Dayak in 1971. – Photo credit Penerangan.

Rumah Dayak at Jalan Satok was once a proud symbol of unity for the Dayak people. For those who have memories of the building, they would understand that it served more than just a function venue but a center of cohesiveness that brought the people together regardless of their backgrounds.

Opened by Sarawak’s second Chief Minister Dato Sri Penghulu Tawi Sli on 26 December 1969, Sarawak Dayak National Union’s Rumah Dayak was once a lively and vibrant gathering place for the Dayak communities before it was demolished in 1997.

Back then the double-storey, semi concrete wooden community centre was where people would come together for discussions and for any kind of celebration. It was also a learning center for people to learn and share traditional customs such as ngajat, bebiau and bejampi.

Rumah Dayak held such a place of prominence among the Dayak community at the time that it was also used for state level Gawai Dayak celebrations held every year on June 1-2.

Gawai Dayak celebrations in 1971 which the second Sarawak Chief Minister attended. – Photo credit Penerangan.

Besides an events venue, it also served as a resting and lodging house for rural Dayak people who had to travel to Kuching for official matters.

After office hours, the place was usually packed with people who stopped by to meet their friends or to play sports as it had a badminton hall as well as billiards and ping pong.

It was such a popular hangout spot that even the likes of Tan Sri Stephen Kalong Ningkan, Tun Abang Haji Openg, and former deputy chief ministers Dato Daniel Tajem and Datuk Amar Dunstan Endawie Enchana used to go there.

A dance performance during the 1971 Gawai Dayak celebrations at Rumah Dayak.

The current scenario for Rumah Dayak

During the 34th SDNU Triennial General Assembly at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) in May 2015, Minister of Social Development Tan Sri William Mawan Ikom who also served as the president of Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU) announced that the SDNU Supreme Council had agreed to transform Rumah Dayak into a budget hotel.

Currently, SDNU is still waiting for the Land and Survey Department to approve the revised plans before the Kuching City North Commission can issue an occupation permit (OP) for the completed structure on Jalan Satok.

Although Rumah Dayak on Jalan Satok may remain plagued by red tape, hopefully SDNU Sibu’s plans to have its own Rumah Dayak as promised by the Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas in May this year during the union’s Pre Gawai Dayak Dinner won’t suffer the same fate.

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