Confession of an Asian StyleHolic

Kumang Gawai

Selamat Hari Gawai to all my friends. You know who you are!

It must really fun and laugh in Sarawak. Everyone is enjoying the beautiful day with family and friends.

It is time for Kumang Gawai.

Let’s have a quick history lesson.  Kumang is the most popular and most frequently recounted female in Iban folklore. Kumang is also called Jawai and Sedinang. Kumang is the daughter of Beddang (father) and Sinjung (mother ). She had two brothers, namely Tutung Ulup Demung Bujang Lemandau Gendang and Rembuyan Aka Terikan Tali Ripang, and two sisters namely, Indang Mendung Kupak Kundung Tembang Embawang and Kelinah Ditelah Indai Abang. She is the consort of Keling Gerasi Nading Bujang Berani Kempang, Jelingau ke Betugau Mayuh Rambang, Keling Aji ke Bebini Rangka Tunang. She lived in Gelong Batu Nakung Nyinyit Nyingung Nunjang Nerabang.

She is an ideal woman, having characteristic and attributes of a truly happy, fulfilled, liberated, and extra ordinary. She is bright, talented, and full of wisdom, knowledgeable, full of energy, perfect housekeeper, prefect cook, perfect mother and perfect wife. She is a role model to her peers, and all things to all people. She is a woman of virtue and courteousness.

She was also a master of seamstress and weaver. Possessing such expertise and skills, Kumang was always consulted by fellow women in GElong and other surrounding territories for advice over weaving and basketry matters.    

The highlight of Gawai celebration is the traditional Kumang Gawai competition. It is a local traditional beauty pageant competition searching for a girl that is not only beautiful, brilliant, kind and with an image of perfect woman. She also should have a deep understanding about their custom and tradition. This competition is very different from modern beauty pageant where the contestants parade in evening gown or posing in two piece bikini. Contestant in Ratu Kumang Gawai will only parade in their traditional costume.


The first modern Kumang Gawai in Sarawak is Puan Senorita Linang. She was crowned for three consecutive years that is in 1966, 1967 and 1969. She is also represent Sarawak in Miss Malaysia Float Queen 1967 and was placed 2nd runner up after Miss Kedah and Miss Penang.




Puan Senorita Linang really proud about Dayak culture. You can ask her anything about Dayak traditional customs and believe me, you’ll get the answer!   

I met her and at 64 she is still beautiful. Her hair is nicely do and her fresh mani and pedi.  The way she talk and walk is really like a queen. She said being a Kumang Gawai the girl not only beautiful but she needs to know everything especially about traditional costume. According to Puan Senorita, joining Kumang Gawai is not only filling in the form but also the mental challenge because you’re representing the whole tribe.



She is currently a Manager and pioneer staff, Dayak Cultural Foundation Resources Centre. Her responsibilities are to preserve, revive and promote the authenticity of traditional  music and dances of the three communities namely, Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu communities.

She is also the person behind Ratu Kumang Gawai in Sarawak. As  one of the judges for the Kumang Gawai Dayak Beauty Pageant. Being the judge, it requires experiences and knowledge in the traditional costumes and must be able to make the right judgment in deciding who should be the winners. Well I have no doubt she has all that.

Truly a Queen.

As the saying goes, once a queen, always a queen.


May 31, 2009 - Posted by | Current issue | ,


  1. Heloo..

    Can i get some information if i interested to join competition Kumang Gawai 2010.


    Comment by ann | December 15, 2009

  2. Bajik sida ke dara kemaya ari,enda meh ulih ngelaban sida ke dulu menya!

    Comment by Garry ebi anak sangkan | February 4, 2010

  3. let’s talk about the future of our kumang. if there is any? maioh bala ka udah bulih title kumang semina ngujung ka sida ia nyadi bini enggau indai orang! senorita linang should help them,bring them up to be a successfull woman, ngambi ka bisi pengari indu kita Iban ba mata dunia. tang sayau amat, pemajik, pemandai..semina di dapur aja. pliz look into it seriously, tq.

    Comment by kennedy's | May 24, 2010

  4. I’d like to pose a comment here.What happen to the rawai tinggi.Apparently our Iban women before used the rawai tinggi instead of the marek empang as part of the traditional outfit.So why dont we bring back the authenticity of Iban beauty and days of “high fashion”.One more mistake I noted was the Kumang Gawai 1969 was won by Ms.Patricia Manggun(my sister)and Ms.Senorita Linang,my cousin was the Kumang Gawai from 1966,1967 and 1968.

    Comment by sonia charles manggun | February 28, 2011

  5. Ngepan Iban is of my interest at the moment…yes it is rare to see a rawai tinggi now as no one really makes it due to it’s nature and functionality. Cute carry, do you have any of the authentic accesories?

    Comment by veeky leonora | June 21, 2011

  6. Nowadays, not all Iban ladies have the rawai tinggi. I like to collect accessories for Iban, Bidayuh & Orang Ulu costumes and I do have the rawai tinggi but it’s not ‘tinggi’ enough. I guess, these days, the ladies wear Marek Empang as part of their Ngepan Iban to cover their chest/breasts.

    Comment by Anonymous | August 12, 2011

  7. Enti ulih bangsa kitai iban,anang kelalu belandik ngena jako laut maia nulis bak enternert. Enti ulih kena meh jako bangsa diri,kebuah aku mesan ngagai semua bangsa kitai ,ngambi lekajako bangsa iban enda pupus ditelan aru pemangsang.

    Comment by Anonymous | November 1, 2011

  8. “She is also the person behind Ratu Kumang Gawai in Sarawak”, it’s funny how most kumangs who won the titles had close “rapport” with Senorita Linang before the competion, whether she happened to be the judge or the organiser of the competition. if you were to observe the other judges at the competition, they somehow related to the winner and Senorita! how is that fair?

    Comment by anaktanjung | February 13, 2013

  9. I was a Chief judge for three consecutive years maia pekit Kumang Gawai. Ukai aku deka nusoi pengelandik diri tang deka madahka mimit bakani kitai milih Kumang Gawai in a professional way. Pengawa bala akim ba maia milih Kumang Gawai ukai pengawa ti nyamai di kerja tang kitai mesti ka ngerjanya enggau adil. Kitai enda tau nitih ke pemilih kitai kediri, reti ka aku nya, enti kaban kitai ti enggau bepekitnya chukup bajik tang nadai pemandai ba segi pelajar kati ko milih ia nyadi kumang deh, kati ka ngelak keh ia mai pangkat ianya semina ba dapur. Tang enti pemajik ia sedang lalu fulfill semua criteria nyadi kumang nya meh pilih kitai. Kumang Gawai mesti ka bisi pelajar lalu have a decent job (ukai semina gawa ba kedai kopi, kedai supermarket, ia at least bisi pengawa ti menyana agi kena ia mai diri empu ba mata orang maioh, ia mestika nemu semua pekakas ngepan, nemu pengawa asal, nemu ngajat and so on. Laban nyadi Kumang Gawai tu orang indu bukai beteladan ba pengawa pejalai pengidup nuan.

    Comment by Anonymous | February 26, 2014

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