The community engagement programme is AEON’s way of promoting a more tightly-knit society through communal events. This year’s programme coincided with the Gawai Dayak celebration, which presented a platform for AEON to bolster unity among Malaysians; at the same time, enabled it to continue to give back to the community.
This time around and in light of the recent opening of AEON MALL Kuching Central, AEON’s motivation to host today’s Gawai Dayak celebration in Kampung Benuk was off the back of the importance of the harvest festival for the Sarawakian community. An integral part of Sarawak’s Dayak community, the festival’s mark of thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest echoes AEON’s sentiment to acknowledge the contributions and hard work of the locals, and usher a more abundant farming season for many more years to come.
The inaugural celebration began in the Benuk Longhouse in Kampung Benuk, which was home to the first Bidayuh longhouse in Sarawak. Since the 1950s, Kampung Benuk has played host to royalties, heads of governments, ministers and tourists from around the globe. Today, one of Borneo’s last remaining long houses calls Kampung Benuk home.
Executive Director of AEON CO. (M) BHD., Hiroyuki Kotera said: “Sarawak plays a role in contributing to the rich history of Malaysia and today, in conjunction with the Gawai Dayak celebration, we are honoured to integrate ourselves into the local culture and build more meaningful relationships with the community. AEON’s aspires to continuously build communities as commitment because in line with today’s festival, we strive to work alongside the locals to preserve their traditions and culture, and contribute stronger to the grassroot community.”
During the event, various activities were held, including a colouring contest for 30 pre-school children to encourage, identify and display the artistic talents of the younger members of Kampung Benuk. In addition to that, residents of the kampung also took part in a Miring ceremony, a ritual conducted to appease the Sempulang Gana and seek blessings for a fruitful harvest for the year ahead. After the Miring ceremony, AEON representatives and members of the community were treated to three traditional performances, namely the Serindang Purung, Jekau and Mimik Gawai.
Also present at the Gawai Dayak celebration was Member of Parliament, Willie Mongin and State Assemblyman (ADUN) of Bengoh, Datuk Jerip Susil, accompanied by Head of Kampung Benuk, Bundu Ak Suwap.
Suwap shared: “We are grateful that AEON chose Kampong Benuk to host this Gawai Dayak celebration for our community. As it is, the festivity represents a major celebration for us, so it is a pleasure to be able to share the significance of this festival with AEON. AEON’s presence in Kuching has enabled our community to experience a new way of shopping and the opening of AEON MALL Kuching Central has created many job opportunities for our younger generations. As the representative from Kampung Benuk, I would like to thank AEON for their support during this festival and hope that our guests enjoyed many culturally-rich activities that were prepared for them.”
The festivities continued with a series of contests for the local community to showcase traditional music and clothing. In total, seven groups participated in the AEON Bergong challenge; 20 children took part in a traditional costume showcase; while 10 individuals showed off their beauty and skill in the Dayung Remus contest.
At the same time, the Malaysian AEON Foundation (MAF) also took the opportunity to hand over donations worth RM200 and one grocery bag to ten single mothers present at the Rumah Adat (Panggah). Kotera explained: “The MAF aims to always givse back to the community because we believe that it is our mission to encourage and build the communities we reside in. In this way, we are able to support those in need to the best of our abilities. Our motivations come from the desire to improve overall communal livelihood and to collectively ease the burdens of the people around us.”