Kaamatan has gone beyond an opportunity for merry-making, and more importantly, is a time for reunion as well.
IT’S that time of the year again. Kaamatan is now the buzz word in Sabah, at least for the month of May.
The annual Harvest Festival kicked off in northern Kota Marudu district on May 1 and for the whole month, the celebrations will be held at villages and towns around the state.
And as in previous years, the festivities will culminate with the two-day state level celebration at the Hongkod Koisaan hall in Penampang at the end of the month.
The hall is home of the Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) headed by the Huguan Siou or the community’s Paramount Chief Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan.
The KDCA is also the main organiser for the state-level Kaamatan festivities starting on May 30 with the staging of a traditional sports carnival and a myriad of cultural presentations at the grounds around the Hongkod.
The following day will see the closing of the celebrations culminating with the crowning of this year’s Unduk Ngadau or the winner of the Harvest Queen pageant.
For generations, Sabah’s ethnic Kadazandusun community have celebrated Kaamatan as a thanksgiving for a bountiful padi harvest.
The launching of the celebration at either is thus usually marked with the magavau, the ceremony to appease the bambarayon or rice spirit by a group of bobolian or traditional priestesses.
Whether at village, district or state levels, Kaamatan is also the showcase of other aspects of ethnic culture, including food and drink.
The festivities thus include competitions for the best traditional dishes such as hinavaor raw fish, nonsom sada or pickled fish, tuhau or pickled wild ginger, andpinasakan or stewed fish.
There is also usually a contest to choose the best lihing or rice wine that is sipped from tajau or clay jars. After the best dishes and rice are chosen, these would then be served to guests at the festivities.
William Majimbun is all too familiar with the intricacies of the Kaamatan celebrations. As Kota Kinabalu Native Chief, he is usually invited to the festivities around his native Inanam and Menggatal as well as other districts.
And he observes that Kaamatan has gone beyond an opportunity for merry-making, and more importantly, is a time for reunion as well.
“Many people now no longer work or live in the villages where they were born in. They may work somewhere else in Sabah or even outside the state,” said Majimbun.
“So when they are told that the Kaamatan would be held in their kampung on this particular weekend, they usually make it a point to return home and rekindle friendships with their fellow villagers,” he said.
The district-level Kaamatan celebration was also an opportunity for people from different kampung within the area to reconnect as well, Majimbun added.
And the state Kaamatan festivities at the Hongkod Koisaan is where the various Kadazandusun communities from places such as Ranau, Tuaran and Tambunan as well as the Rungus from Kudat and Murut from Kenin-gau and Tenom showcase their cultures.
Houses featuring the traditional architectural styles of these districts are spruced up for the festivities and it is a gathering point of members of these communities, garbed in their native costumes.
It is also an opportunity for the communities such as the Rungus to sell their handicraft such as rinago basketware and beadwork.
But cashing in on the festivities are also vendors hawking everything from plastic toys to clothing, leaving some visitors to wonder what they have to do with Kaamatan.
“Sometimes I feel like I am walking in a market when I am there,” said Majimbun, a KDCA life member.
Nevertheless, Kaamatan will continue to attract scores of visitors wanting to have a taste of Sabah’s ethnic cultures as they are welcomed with the greeting, KotobianTagazo Tadau Do Kaamatan. RUBEN SARIO The STAR Home Opinion Columnist 28/05/2014