Sheryll Josh is proud of her Dusun Kimaragang culture and heritage, and the Sabahan wants to showcase her identity to the world, even if it means scaling the highest peak in South-East Asia to do so.
Three weeks ago (in April), the administrative executive climbed Sabah's Mount Kinabalu (4,095m) and posted photos of herself in a traditional Dusun Kimaragang costume on Instagram on May 1.
"Our culture and heritage provide us with a sense of identity and belonging. Our roots help us understand where we come from and how we fit into the world. Knowing about our traditions, customs and values helps us feel connected to our ancestors and our community," said Sheryll during a phone interview from Kota Marudu, Kudat recently.
The climb was also part of Sheryll's way to welcome Hari Kaamatan, or Harvest Festival, on May 30 and 31.
"Before this, I have seen pictures of other climbers who have scaled Mount Kinabalu in traditional clothes. This inspired me to wear my traditional costume as I'm proud of my culture and heritage. The outfit was sewn by my mother, and wearing it at Low's Peak is an unforgettable memory. I decided to post the photos in May to build up the hype before Hari Kaamatan."
The Dusun Kimaragang is a sub-group of the KadazanDusun tribe. It is one of the oldest tribes in north Borneo.
Sheryll climbed up to Low's Peak in a sports attire before changing into her traditional outfit at the summit.
"The temperature at the summit was near freezing. It was very cold up there and I shivered in my sleeveless attire. "Thankfully, the velvet costume comes with a hoodie, and that kept my head warm. However, my feet were exposed, and it was like standing on ice cubes. Luckily, I didn't suffer from frostbite," said Sheryll, who is attached to a construction firm.
Hari Kaamatan celebrates the rice harvest and marks the end of the planting cycle. It is a time to thank the "rice spirits", or "Bambaazon", for a bountiful harvest and seek blessings for the upcoming year.
Sheryll, who has asthma, trained for two months before scaling the highest peak in South-East Asia. It was her third climb up the mountain. Five friends and a guide accompanied her.
"I carried my inhaler and essential medication like paracetamol and antihistamine. I also ensured I kept hydrated by drinking lots of water and breathing through my nose instead of my mouth as much as possible," said Sheryll, who is also a freelance singer.
She added that Hari Kaamatan is an important event in Sabah's cultural calendar and celebrated with great enthusiasm and pride by the local communities.
"During the festival, there are many cultural performances, including traditional dances like sumazau and magunatip, and music shows. There are also beauty pageants and handicraft exhibitions. It is an opportunity for local communities to showcase our rich culture and traditions and pass them on to the younger generations.”