Profile: The Kadazandusun
This is the largest ethnic category in
Sabah and is predominantly wet rice and hill rice cultivators. Their
language belongs to the Dusunic family and shares a common animistic
belief system with various customs and practices. Their ancient
beliefs on the verity that everything has life – the rocks, trees,
and rivers are all living things. They have souls and spirits that
must be appeased from time to time through specific rituals. In
these modern times, some of the rituals are less performed accept
during certain festivities.
Pesta Kaamatan or Harvest Festival is a unique celebration
of Kadazandusun society. It’s a celebration to honour the Rice Spirit
– Bambaazon or Bambarayon and giving thanks for yet another bountiful
year. The festival begins on the first of May at many district levels.
The rites and customs of the Pesta Kaamatan is a tribal practice
of Kadazandusun and also Murut peoples. The Bobohizan or Bobolian
who are the High Priests or Priestesses (depending on the district/area
undertaking the preservation) will conduct the ritual. In different
districts, the priests or priestesses may be addressed to differently,
for instance in Tambunan district they are known as Bobolian, in
Tuaran as Tantagas and in Penampang as Bobohizan.
is believed that rice in whatever form embodies Bambaazon that must
be protected from harm. The homecoming of Babaazon is an integral
part of the Harvest Festival. Ancient folklore tells of the ultimate
deed of Kinoingan or Minamagun – The Almighty God or Creator, who
sacrificed his only beloved daughter, Huminodun so that his people
would have food. Various parts of her body were planted from which
plants grew. During the Magavau ceremony, the Bobohizan will select
some stalks of rice that are left undistributed until the harvest
is over. In some districts, the chosen stalks are cut before the
field is harvested and are then brought into the owner’s house.
The task of Bobohizan is to search and salvage the lost Bambaazon
who are hurt or separated from the main mystical body. In the old
days, this ceremony was often performed in freshly harvested fields
during the first full moon after the harvest to invoke the rice
The language used by Bobohizan is archaic whose meanings have been
buried in time and known only to the few remaining Bobohizan these
days. The vital aspect of Magavau is the paraphernalia used to summon
Bambaazon. The sacrament of Magavau may vary according to district
practices but the ceremony always ends with food offerings to Bambaazon
and merry making for the village folks.
The highlight of Pesta Kaamatan is the selection of the pageant
queen or “Unduk Ngadau” which can be literally translated as “Zenith
of the Sun”. It conceptually derives from the sacrifice of Huminodun.
The maiden who has the honour of being selected should bear semblance
to Huminodun and will represent all that is virtuous in the revered
The following listed are the divisions of Kadazandusun family clusters
found at large in Sabah and one can distinguish their district origin
by the traditional costumes worn: - penampang,