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Date [ 2014-05-28, 05:35 ]

Today this festival revitalises the spirit of the Kadazan people.  

Paying homage to rice.

(Kuala Lumpur=Koreanpress) Azmi Anuar = Come this May 30th and 31st, the state of Sabah will be in festive mood. This is because the Kadazans will be celebrating their Harvest Festival.

There can be some confusion over the actual days of the festivals. As each village celebrates when it brings the harvest in, this can be in different time zones in different areas. Some even have two harvests a year. So it is now common to have the festival run throughout the month of May each year. However these are all minor as they all culminate on the grand Harvest Festival of May 30 and 31st, and held at the Hongkod Koisaan in Penumpang. It will be agathering of all the Kadazan cultural groups in Sabah.

The official name for the festival is Pesta Kaamatan. It evolved from the age old customs and traditions of rice farming. Thus the festival is held to give thanks to the spirit of the rice that is called ‘Bambaazon, and who has given them a bountiful harvest.

The festival is also a way of identifying the Kadazans as rice growers and who are one with the land. It places the stamp of uniqueness on these natives of Sabah. Finally, it helps to unite the Kadazans as one people.

The first day of the festival reflects the importance of the celebrations. This is when the rich and abundant harvest is shown to everyone. This is followed by a number of sporting events, the most popular being the buffalo race. ‘Manampanau’ is racing on bamboo stilts and requires adroit skills. There is also arm wrestling and other manly sports.

More sedate, but equally enjoyable is the art of gong beating, then the ever graceful sumazau dance competition and for those who consider themselves as songbirds, the Sugandoi Singing Competition.

It goes without saying one of the most popular competition is the ‘tapai’ or rice wine drinking competition. Losers can console themselves by joining everyone else to taste the Kadazan rice wines ‘hiing’ and ‘tapai’ along with the alcoholic drink called ‘talak.’

The second day is open to the other various racial groups residing in Sabah. They each have the opportunity to take to the stage to present their ownbrand of culture and tradition. The Kadazans consider this as an important exercise in molding the various races into one harmonious group.

The culmination of the festivities is the crowning of the Harvest Festival Queen known as ‘Unduk Ngadau.’ From choosing a mere beauty, the criterion has been refined in relation to the virtues of the legendary ‘Huminodum.’ She was the only daughter of the Kadazan Kinoingan called ‘Hinokizan’, a god of yore.

According to legend, Huminodum sacrificed herself so that the different parts of her body became the source of various foods for the Kadazan people. Her ultimate death was to ensure that not only the Kadazans, but also all others on Earth, could live. So today the selection of the Festival Queen is not based on mere beauty alone but human values too.

The Kadazans have been celebrating since the 1950s. It was to enhance their belief that rice (paai or parai) had miraculous qualities as it a part of Huminodum, leading to the rice spirit, Bambaazon residing in every grain of rice. So it is not surprising that from eons ago, rice has been the staple food of the Kadazans.

The gong competition

The graceful sumazu

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