Embracing the beauty of Sabung Labuk at Kaamatan


Eva Olivia Johnius ensembled her Sabung Labuk costume with RM3,300 Bawal Ratu scarf, adorned with colourful Swarovski stones and a custom-made handbag featuring traditional motifs.Eva Olivia Johnius ensembled her Sabung Labuk costume with RM3,300 Bawal Ratu scarf, adorned with colourful Swarovski stones and a custom-made handbag featuring traditional motifs.

KOTA KINABALU: Kaamatan holds a special place in the heart of Eva Olivia Johnius, who has always admired the beauty of traditional costumes.

A Dusun Liwan from Ranau, the 31-year-old businesswoman was particularly drawn to the Sabung Labuk, a traditional costume from the Dusun Labuk ethnicity.

“I attended a Kaamatan Festival in Telupid with my husband last year and saw the Sabung Labuk costume. I fell in love with its colourful handmade embroidery, which is different from any other traditional costume I have ever seen.

“I was told that it is very challenging to sew this costume, requiring great patience and skill to complete the embroidery. It can take months to finish just one dress, which is why it can fetch a very high price,” said Eva when met at the state-level Kaamatan Festival at the Hongkod Koisaan in Penampang on Thursday (May 30).

Eva Olivia Johnius ensembled her Sabung Labuk costume with RM3,300 Bawal Ratu scarf, adorned with colourful Swarovski stonesEva Olivia Johnius ensembled her Sabung Labuk costume with RM3,300 Bawal Ratu scarf, adorned with colourful Swarovski stones

She was among thousands who thronged the venue to celebrate the festival.

The Dusun (or Kadazan) Labuk community is largely located in the Sabah districts of Beluran and Telupid.

The Sabung Labuk, which originated from Kampung Kuala Sapi, Beluran, is not merely traditional attire but also a symbol of Dusun Labuk culture, history, and tradition.

The most distinctive feature of the Baju Labuk is the “Gosing” flower (senduduk tree or its scientific name, Melastoma malabathricum) embroidery in pink, green, blue, and yellow, which depicts the diversity and unity of the Dusun Labuk.

“Actually, I wanted to have one made for this year’s Kaamatan, but the tailor had a long list of customers. Since I couldn’t get it in time, I decided to rent one,” she said, proudly showcasing her Sabung Labuk costume.

What made her ensemble even more striking was the RM3,300 Bawal Ratu scarf, adorned with colourful Swarovski stones, and a custom-made handbag featuring traditional motifs.

“Still, I feel that the main attraction is the dress. I will make sure to have my own collection soon,” she said.

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