Harvest Festival (Pesta Kaamatan)
Sabah, Malaysia-fondly dubbed by the seafarers of yesteryears as “The Land Below the Wind”, where hurricanes and volcanoes never rage to disturb peace and tranquility.
On this land of splendor and mega-biodiversity live some of the world’s most vibrant and colorful indigenous peoples, such as the multi-ethnic Kadazandusuns, the Muruts,the Rungus and the Bajaus, who are otherwise known as the Cowboys of the Orient.
Though many Sabahan indigenous peoples have now ventured into the modern way of life and moved to the cities to pursue modern careers, a sizeable number of them still live their ancestral way of life, mindful of their traditional worldviews and guided in their daily living by their customary laws known as Adats.
The Kadazandusuns in particular still respect the last generation of their spiritual specialists called Bobolians,who are the authorities on socio-spiritual, cultural, economic and even to a certain degree on the political, structural and organizational systems of the Kadazandusun society. Bobolians are the intermediaries between humans and divinities, healers and performers of cultural rites and ceremonies of the human life stations from womb to tomb and beyond.
In agronomy, Bobolians lead women as guardians of the life cycle of the Kadazandusun staple crop -paddy, and as custodians and propagators of numerous multi-purpose genetic resources of the Kadazandusuns.
Kaamatan Festival Month Launching
On May 1st of each year, the Kaamatan Festival Month of May is launched from a pre-chosen district in Sabah. This ensures the participation in action by the numerous ethnic communities within and around the Kaamatan launching district to promote their unique cultural heritage as well as multicultural peace, understanding and harmony.
Come 30th and 31st of May, Sabah’s indigenous peoples, domestic and foreign tourists, and people from all walks of life converge at the Cultural Unity Center (Hongkod Koisaan), Panampang for the finale of the Kaamatan Festival celebration. The natives put on their finest traditional costumes displaying a rich potpourri of cultural attires, designs, motives and colours.
Hands reaching hands in friendship, all celebrants, guests and visitors alike are welcomed; new friendships are established while past and current brotherhood are renewed and strengthened among peoples of all races, creeds and cultural traditions in the true spirit of Kaamatan.
In 2010, the KDCA Kaamatan Festival Volunteer Students’ Guides recorded some 24 different nationalities visiting the 2 days Kaamatan Festival Finale at KDCA Cultural Centre.
Traditional Music and Dances
To the multi-sounds and tempo of traditional music, multi-ethnic cultural dances are performed to show guests and visitors the rhythm of local life which they can experience for a moment in time by their participation in action.
Outside the main hall, traditional sports are held such as: Mipulos (Arm Wrestling),Mipadsa (Knuckle Wrestling), Monopuk (Blow Piping), Momolositik (Catapulting) and Migayat Lukug (Tug of War), never failing to amuse and entertain the cheering crowd of spectators.
Multi-ethnic Traditional House Receptions
At the various traditional houses with ethnic designs, appointed judges struggle to maintain their soberness as they judge the creative decorations, arrays of cultural artifacts and the cultural reception of guests into each of the ethnic houses.
Although the Kadazandusuns are made up of some 40 sub-ethnic communities, due to lack of space for now, the KDCA Cultural Village have only displayed the following ethnic community houses:
1. The Tangara Penampang House
2. The Liwan Ranau House
3. The Kadazan Papar House
4. The Tindal Kota Belud House
5. The Tatana Kuala Penyu House
6. The Kwijau Keningau House
7. The Lotud Tuaran House
8. The Tuhawon Tambunan House
9. The Rungus Binatang Kudat Long House
10. The Murut Lansaran House
11. The Bisaya Beaufort House
Local Handicrafts Sales Exhibition
All around are cheap sales of local products, where one can have the best of choices and great bargains in purchasing the finest native handicrafts direct from the producers themselves.
Industrial Products Sales Exhibition
Government and private sectors, farmers, industrialists and artisans converge to exhibit and sell their product making up a lively Kaamatan Tamu or Trade Fair.
Kaamatan multi-ethnic Culinary and Beverage Delights
For those who would rather have Kaamatan as a feast day, numerous varieties of unique traditional food and beverages await them.There is the Linongot, Ombuyat, Borot, Soko Kinapa, Hinava,Tivak Kinapa, Kulupis, Tuhau and Sambal Mangga; the various local deserts and delectable rice and coconut wines–tapai, bahar, lihing and montoku for drinks, all completely free for as long as they last. The only forbidden thing is to glut, to waste, and to lose self-discipline drunkenness.
Sugandoi Kaamatan Serenades
It has been part of the tradition of the Kadazandusuns during harvesting time to trade riddles and while celebrating Kaamatan Festival to trade songs of wit, poems and innuendos as well as songs of praise and thanksgiving to Huminodun the Sacrificed Daughter of God. This tradition is specifically referred to as Monugandoi. It is from this traditional practice that the current Kaamatan Sugandoi singing contest is now an important part of the Kaamatan Festival Program from village, district and to the State Level Celebration.
Today the Sugandoi Kaamatan serves well to discover and develop the talents of new Kadazandusun musicians, composers, singers and entertainers and has gathered popularities over the years.
Huminodun’s Beatification in Unduk Ngadau
Lest we forget, the Unduk Ngadau Queen selection is never meant to be just another of those Beauty Queen Contests. Here, feminine sensuality and bold exhibitions of the physical endowments of contestants do not determine the winner.
Beyond physical beauty, concealed in piety and attired gracefully in full traditional costumes of her ethnic community, the Unduk Ngadau in her most natural self must portray the best virtues and potentials to resemble beatified Huminodun, the Kadazandusun Queen of love and compassion, the ultimate symbol of perfection and purity of divinity in humanity.
The Month of the Kaamatan Festival begins on the 1st of May at the chosen Launching District, which is then followed by other districts as well as the KDCA Coordinating Committees in Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak, subsequently having their respective Kaamatan celebrations before converging for the grand finale Kaamatan at the KDCA Cultural Unity Centre on the 30th and 31st of May.
For dates on the respective district celebrations, you may refer to the Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA) Facebook page for updates.
The Pesta Kaamatan Souvenir Booklet
Text by Tindarama H/Dr Benedict Topin
The Harvest Festival (Kaamatan) schedule was provided by TV Sabah who is the official media partner for Harvest Festival celebration. Follow their Facebook for updates and live coverage: TV Sabah