The Harvest Festival, also known as Pesta Kaamatan, is an important event celebrated in Labuan as well as Sabah on the 30th and 31st of May each year.
|Labuan & Sabah
|Labuan & Sabah
The Harvest Festival is typically celebrated in the month of May by the Kadazan-Dusun group but other related ethnic groups in Sabah and Labuan also attend to enjoy the festival. Harvest Festival is heavily bound to rice cultivation as it is the staple crop in Sabah. The festival signals the time to harvest the crop after the sowing period ends. It is a very joyous occasion of appreciation surrounded by friends and family. Pesta Kaamatan is one of the two harvest festivals Malaysia has to offer, the other being in Sarawak.
Tales passed down for generations holds the belief that a God by the name of Kinoingan sympathised on the suffering of the people due to a great famine. To end the suffering, he sacrificed his daughter, Huminodun, by sowing her over the land. Crops grew and were later harvested, saving the people from a terrible hunger. Another belief is that Huminodun’s spirit is incarnated in the rice, known as Bambarayon or Bambazon. It is also believed that the Harvest Festival must consider the Bobohizan, a high priestess who plays a critical role to appease the rice spirit during the festival.
The Harvest Festival is an exciting time to try out local delicacies that are sure to awaken a variety of taste buds! The festival brings along an array of delicious Kadazan-Dusun dishes such as hinava (raw fish marinated in lime and citrus), bambangan (a seasonal wild mango fruit), butod (sago grub), sinalau bakas (smoked wild boar meat), tuhau (wild ginger) and noonsom (fermented food) served with the home-brewed rice wine called tapai and lihing.
The celebration will not be complete without performing one of the most important dances that is compulsory during the Harvest Festival known as the Sumazau. It is a traditional folk dance of the Kadazan-Dusun that was inspired by the flying patterns of eagles as seen by farmers in the field during the harvest season. Another famous dance is the Magunatip, recognised as the Bamboo Dance that gradually gets faster as the dance goes on, providing much entertainment for the crowd.
The Harvest Festival upholds several ceremonies namely Kumogos, Kumotob, Posisip, Magavau and Humabot. Each significant ceremony is held to ensure that the farmers will be able to harvest again.
Held way before harvesting begins, the Bobohizan will tie-up seven stalks of the best rice from the field. These stakes of rice will be reaped after the entire field has been harvested. This is being significantly done to inform the other spirits who are present in the rice field not to disturb the farmers at work.
The Bobohizan will select seven stalks of the best rice from the area which is not harvested yet. She will tie them up together before placing them in a tadang (a type of basket to keep the rice) to be transformed into seeds for the subsequent planting season.
The Bobohizan will gather the seven stalks of rice that were put in the tadang beforehand to a rice hut. After embedding the rice into a bamboo pole kept in the tangkob, she will recite chants to call for the Bambazon to remain in the rice hut until the following planting season.
Magavau is the most vital part throughout the entire celebration as this is where the reclamation and gifts of food to Bambazon is performed.
Known as the closing ceremony for the Harvest Festival, Humabot includes a variety of entertaining activities such as dances and feasting throughout the day. The most notable event would be the Unduk Ngadau beauty pageant to commemorate the spirit of Huminodun. Unduk Ngadau comes from the word Runduk Tadau, meaning 'the girl crowned by the sunlight.'