Unduk Ngadau elevated to national level with greater responsibilities

Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) Women Council chairman Joanna Kitingan addressing the 51 Unduk Ngadau finalists during their registration exercise on Sunday (May 26).

KOTA KINABALU: This year’s crowned Unduk Ngadau (harvest beauty queen) will bear greater responsibility as Sabah’s annual cultural beauty pageant is elevated to a national-level status.

From its humble beginnings in the 1960s, this unique cultural beauty contest, arguably the oldest in the world, has evolved and matured to align with current trends.

"Unduk Ngadau, now 64 years old, is the longest-running cultural heritage pageant in Malaysia. This competition stands apart from other beauty pageants, making its continued relevance essential," said Joanna Kitingan, the Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) Women Council chairman.

She made these remarks while addressing the 51 Unduk Ngadau finalists from across Sabah, as well as representatives from KDCA Labuan, Sarawak, Melaka, Johor, Putrajaya, Perak, Penang, and Klang Valley, during their registration exercise on Sunday (May 26).

The Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan organising chairman emphasised that with the beauty contest now elevated to a national-level event, the contestants have a bigger role to play in promoting Sabah's culture, language, and traditional costumes beyond the state.

"In addition, such activities serve to further empower you. As an Unduk Ngadau, you are already a winner. But you also go beyond your name; you are an empowered indigenous woman. It is not just about who you are, but your value, your inner strength, and how you value yourself.

"Unduk Ngadau is a platform where you begin your journey of confidence, knowing not just your culture and tradition, but also your family background and your role as Kadazandusun, Murut, and Rungus women," she said.

Themed "Kaamatan, Poingalib Kohimaganon Taakanon" (Kaamatan Beyond Food Security), the Unduk Ngadau was part of the colourful celebrations of the Kadazandusun, Murut, and Rungus communities across the state, which would also showcase their traditional dances, music, and games, culminating in the state-level celebration at the Hongkod Koisaan in Penampang on May 30 and 31.

This "battle of the beauty crowns," which Kitingan also described as the mother of all competitions, will be held on Friday (May 31), with outgoing reigning queen Carol Abbey Gail Grimaldi from Papar handing over her crown to her successor.

The crowned 2024 Unduk Ngadau National Queen will take home prizes valued at RM100,000, including RM12,000 in cash.

The first and second runners-up will receive RM10,000 and RM8,000 cash prizes, respectively, plus other prizes.

Kitingan said the top seven winners will participate in a three-day intensive course at the Customary School in Tuaran to deepen their comprehension and expertise in the cultural heritage and traditions of the state.

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