Unveiling the folklore, rituals behind the harvest fest

Keeping the art alive: Murut people performing their traditional dance.

KOTA KINABALU: During the end of the harvest season, it is customary to perform a ritual to call upon the padi spirits to return home. This involves chanting in ancient languages while moving in circles.

Once the spirits are home, they are placed in a granary (tangkob) to rest for a year before they are taken back to the fields when a new padi season begins.

This was among the cultural performances showcased during the opening of the Kaamatan (harvest festival) yesterday.

Apart from the must-have calling of the rice spirit ritual, the crowd at the Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) hall was entertained with native poems, cultural dances and songs, and ethnic storytelling from an eight-year-old, among others.

The overall programme was aimed at sharing the significance of Kaamatan and highlighting the meaning of its folklore and rituals.

More importantly, the message was sent out to highlight the importance of such traditions in an era of technology.

The organising chairman of the event, Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, who is also Sabah Deputy Chief Minister, said in his opening speech that the Kaamatan is no longer celebrated in Sabah alone.

The festival, he said, was now a national and international event.

Thus, he said there was a need to preserve the culture and traditions of the people in Sabah.

For instance, he said this included going beyond the state to promote the unique features of natives, including the Kadazandusun, Murut and Rungus.

He also spoke on an ongoing programme to revive traditional foods and plants, saying it is one way to ensure food security in the state.

Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, in his speech, said the public should view Sabah’s numerous unique festivities as a form of unity and harmony.

“Festivals such as Kaamatan bring us together regardless of race, religion or creed. We must make sure that this spirit of togetherness is preserved and protected for the harmony and prosperity of our nation,” he said.

He said ethnic and cultural events are important aspects of every culture; hence, they are important factors that unify people.

Hajiji said cultural-based events and celebrations would also help boost patriotism, a sense of belonging and identity among Sabahans.

“Let us take this opportunity to strengthen our cultural roots, foster closer relations among ourselves and make this bond of ours stronger than before,” he said.

After the opening ceremony, the Chief Minister together with invited guests and the Huguan Siou, the paramount leader of the Kadazandusun, Murut and Rungus, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, among others, visited the traditional homes in the KDCA.

They were served with local delicacies such as jeruk bambangan (pickled or fermented wild mangoes) and hinava (picked fish with ginger, bitter gourd, chilli or sliced young mango), among others.

The 50 Unduk Ngadau (Harvest Queen) finalists also made several appearances throughout the event as they vied for the state Unduk Ngadau title today.

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