The sound of gongs will soon pass to our ears again to signify the arrival of the most joyous and cultural Pesta Kaamatan or the Harvest Festival in Sabah
. Every year on 30th and 31st May, the largest festival for the Kadazans, Dusuns and other ethnic clusters of Sabah take place to honour the spirits for a good harvest and pray for blessings for a better harvest the following year. This week,
has gotten help from a born and raised Sabahan, Harni Clancy
to tell us more about the largest festival in her hometown.
Clad in traditional wear as they sing along to harmonious tunes
Brief History of the Pesta Kaamatan
For the longest time, the people of Sabah were generally hunters, rice farmers and wild fruits collectors. For them, natural disasters such as flood, drought and herbicides have become major obstacles to their agricultural efforts. Most native Sabahans place high importance on rice and not enough supply would only mean famine and starvation. Over many decades, rice cultivation has brought superstitious beliefs and taboos as the grateful farmers give thanks to the Gods for healthy crops.
Pesta Kaamatan Festivities
The Harvest Festival is always filled with joy and excitement as the native tribes will wear traditional costumes while dancing the Sumazau dance. There are also exotic activities like the Sugandoi (singing competition) and traditional sports such as buffalo races (melumba kalabau), arm wrestling (mipulos), blow pipe shooting (monopuk) and gong hitting competitions. During this festival, the popular traditional rice wine Tapai will be served in small bamboo cups or a big ceramic jar.
Borneo tribe traditional costume
The word ‘Magavau’ or ‘Maga’au’ means recovering what one has lost. This practice refers to the task of a respected Bobohizan (village high priest/ priestess) to search and bring home the lost, stolen or strayed Bambaazon (spirit of rice). The ceremony is conducted by performing a Magavau Dance where the male will lead the pack while waving a warrior sword in the air to ward off evil spirit that might try to disrupt the ritual. Only the best quality of food will be chosen to be presented on banana leaves to the Bambaazon spirits such as chicken meat, areca nuts, betel leaves, tobacco and kirai (“rollie”), eggs and the finest Tapai (rice wine).
Although the festival is filled with many singing and dancing, the most anticipated highlight of the Pesta Kaamatan is the Unduk Ngadau which is the crowning of the harvest festival queen. This beauty pageant is held to commemorate the spirit of Huminodun, a mythological character who sacrificed her life to save the Kadazandusun people from starvation due to the shortage of food. The pageant is unique to the state and the beautiful contestants are to don the traditional attires and accessories.
Pesta Kaamatan promotes the spirit of sharing, forgiving and fellowship and the warm Sabahans welcomes everyone to join this heartwarming festival! It promises a joyful and unique experience that you’ll never forget!
So if you’re planning to catch the Pesta Kaamatan, you can start planning for your trip to Sabah
where you can seek advice from our well-qualified Travel Advisors
from the Borneo state. Sabahans are friendly folks to mingle with so you can meet up with the Travel Hosts
there. Sabah is one of the most culturally diverse states in Malaysia
and it is home to the 10th highest mountain in South East Asia, Mount Kinabalu
Lest we forget, Koolred
would like to give big thanks to our helpful Redster Harni
for her contribution to how Sabahans celebrate this joyous event.
We would also like to give credit to the photos by Redster Ruslan Lusi
, Reezal Photo and Jalludin Hassan- your photos helped bring colour to the post!
To all Sabahans, we would like to wish you a Happy and Safe Harvest Festival!