West Kalimantan is very famous for the diversity of cultures and tribes that exist there. There are three main tribes in the province which is passed by the equator, namely the Dayak, Malay, and Chinese. Each of these tribes has its own unique customs and cultural festivals. The right time to get to know the cultural uniqueness of each tribe is during a cultural festival which is held annually. Three famous and unique cultural festivals in this province which is located in the western part of Kalimantan Island are Gawai Dayak, Carbide Cannon Festival, and Cap Go Meh Singkawang.

Dayak Gawai Festival

Dayak Gawai Festival festivities
The Festival of the Datak Gawai Festival (Source: kompasiana)

Dayak gawai is usually held in May or early June at Rumah Randakng, Pontianak for a week. Dayak tribesmen from various regions will gather there to celebrate this festival. Dayak is held as an expression of the Dayak tribe’s gratitude to God for the bountiful harvest. At this festival, the Dayak tribe also prayed that their next harvest could be more abundant and avoid various disasters.

Some typical Dayak rituals must be held in this festival, such as the Ngampar Bide ritual or laying out a mat. After the various rituals have been carried out, the Dayak tribe along with other communities will walk to parade around the center of Pontianak city. In addition, several games were also held, such as catching pigs and Bujang and Dara Gawai Hedgehog competitions, which were devoted to preserving Dayak culture. There are also accessories booths, musical instruments, and traditional Dayak clothing in this festival to introduce Dayak culture to visitors who attend.

Carbide Cannon Festival

Carbide Cannon Festival Excitement
The Excitement of the Carbide Cannon Festival (Source: Pontianak Post)

The Carbide Cannon Festival originates from a legend about the origin of the city of Pontianak. Syarif Abdurrahman Alkadrie, as the first king of Pontianak, was once disturbed by the ghost of a kuntilanak while he was cleaning the shelter used to build a place to live in Pontianak. To overcome the disturbance, he ordered his troops to make and sound a cannon to keep the ghosts away. From this legend, the people of Pontianak always sound their carbide cannons for several days before and after Eid.

The carbide cannon will sound on the banks of the Kapuas River, Pontianak. This cannon is made of areca, coconut, or meranti tree trunks which are decorated with various decorations to beautify the cannon. In general, these cannons were painted various colors or wrapped in cloth. Its loud voice will attract the attention of local residents to come in droves and try to sound this cannon.

By the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Indonesia, the Carbide Cannon Festival has been designated as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. In fact, this festival once broke the MURI record with 150 carbide cannons from 31 participating groups in 2007.

Singkawang Cap Go Meh Festival

Tatung at the Cap Go Meh Festival
Tatung at the Singkawang Cap Go Meh Festival (Source: CNN Indonesia)

Apart from the Carbide Cannon Festival, Cap Go Meh Singkawang has also been designated by the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Indonesia as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2020. This festival is held on the fifteenth day after Chinese New Year in the City of a Thousand Temples. The people of Singkawang enliven this festival by setting up an art and cultural stage as well as food stands.

In addition, the tatung or people chosen to be included with spirits who are considered good will be paraded around Singkawang unconscious. The attractions displayed by the Tatung are beyond human reason, such as jabbing their own bodies with various sharp objects.

At the Cap Go Meh Festival, the people of Amoi City will also hold an eye-opening ritual for the 12 dragon replica which is carried out to enter the dragon spirit into the dragon replica that will be paraded. After the parade was finished, the replica was then burned in the temple field. The burning of the replicas marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Also read: Get to know the Kuwung Festival, the Number 1 and Oldest Cultural Parade in Banyuwangi