Tadau Ka’amatan (Harvest Festival) 2016 @ KDCA Penampang

“People without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots..”-Marcus Gravey

A Ka’amatan Gallery by @joehairie
KDCA Cultural Village


I recently went to KDCA (Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association) Hall or The Hongkod Koisaan (Unity Hall). As I will have my hands tied to other commitments on the 30-31 May 2016, I decided to visit the KDCA on the 29 May 2016. Preparations for the Tadau Ka’amatan celebrations were still ongoing when I came here therefore most cultural/traditional houses are not ready for visitors. It will be fully open to public on the 30 May 2016 with lots of interesting activities being planned by the organizers.

About Hongkod koisaan (Unity Hall)

According to Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) official page (Click HERE), like rice farmers elsewhere, all the native tribes of Sabah pray for a bountiful harvest. Each year in May, after the harvest, they performed a ritual called ‘magavau’ to nurse the spirit of the grain back to health in readiness to plant again for the coming season.Traditionally, this is done in the padi fields by the ‘bobohizan’, a priestess familiar with the spirits of the pagan native. This ritual is now carried out at the ‘Hongkod Koisaan’ or the Unity Hall.

A tribal embellishment of the Hongkod are the geometric patterns on the roof. Some will be suprised to learn that such native patterns have great similarities with ancient Chinese patterns. Although their meanings differ from village to village, these patterns are well known. Casual visitors will notice some typically native character of the Hongkod. The arch-entrance resembles a woman with her arms outstretched, dancing the ‘sumazau’. On her head, she wears a conical straw hat, fashionable gear at one time.

The Tagungs are among the most treasured possession as a well tuned and complete set ensured a loud but lively party. The natives attach so much significance to the beating of their gongs, so much so that it was impossible to identify the owner merely by the sound of his gongs. By no means, their actual sizes, the set of six tagungs set on the external walls of the Hongkod Koisaan are a pleasant reminder of the scale on which music is still made in Sabah. A real life-size gong is kept just outside the hall for comparison.

About Pesta/Tadau Ka’amatan (Harvest Festival)

The Kadazan and Dusun pepole give thanks to the gods and spirits for blessings and a good paddy harvest, asking for guidance; they dance and eat and drink amidst much merrymaking! During this harvest festival, the Pesta Ka’amatan, known locally as “Tadau Ka’amatan”, Sabah natives wear their traditional costumes and enjoy a carnival-like atmosphere, which usually stretches from dawn to dawn. Tapai’, as their homemade rice wine is called, is freely served during the festivities.

The origins of Ka’amatan, which means “after harvest”, can be traced back to the animistic beliefs of the Kadazandusun. The Kadazans believe in the worship of ancient gods and in the existence of the five main spirits –Kinoingan (Almighty God and Creator), Rusad (Spirit of all living things other than Man), Koududuvo (Spirit of the Living), Tombivo (ghostly Spirit of the Dead) and Rogon (evil Spirit).

According to popular belief, the spirit of the padi plant is said to be part of the Kinoingan commonly known as the Bambaazon, who is revered as the overall creator, an omnipotent source of life and existence. Thus the spirit of Bambaazon is revered in the rice plant, the rice grain and the cooked rice. To the Kadazandusun, paddy is not only their staple food – it is also a sacred plant, a living symbol of Kinoingan’s love for his people. Many believe that “without rice, there is no life”.

Rituals performed during Ka’amatan are conducted by the much-respected Bobohizan or Bobolian, who are High Priests and Priestesses. There are several major components that make up Ka’amatan. There is the home coming of the Bambaazon, which is an integral part of the festival, thus ensure an abundant harvest if it is invited to dwell in the best ears of paddy, which have been selected for the next planting season.

Next, there is the Magavau ceremony, where the Bobohizan are given the onerous duty of searching, salvaging and recovering Bambaazon which have inadvertently been lost, stolen or led astray – by pests and predators, natural phenomena such as floods and droughts, careless harvesters, and the like – reciting a long summoning prayer in the beginning of the harvest to cajole and persuade theBambaazon to return to the rice barns.

Then, there is the Unduk Ngadau, a traditional beauty contest, in which, of course, the fairest in the land will participate, and a Ka’amatan Queen will be selected. This is however no ordinary beauty contest, as it apparently owes its origins to the legend or story of the Kadazandusun’s genesis, and their creator, Kinoingan’s sacrifice of his only daughter Huminodun, for the love of his people (Click here to read more about this legend, click HERE).  I took some some pictures while being at the KDCA and this gallery is meant to be shared among all of us. Do enjoy viewing the images.