The Kadazandusun Story

I always love to get my hands on materials or documentations that touches on my own cultural heritage. The Kadazandusun heritage. It’s because knowing and learning your heritage is to love, to appreciate, to be proud and to have that identity that makes us unique.

I always go to the book store to get a copy or copies of books that touches on this subject and now, I was glad to know that a documentary of the Kadazandusun culture was released. Finally a visual documentation of the indigenous.

Print screen of the documentary’s DVD menu.
Director: Johan John

The issue brought forward in this documentary is the generation gap between the elderly and the young in terms of cultural customs and way of life.  With the hopes of sparking cultural awareness and preservation, the documentary features Sabahan from all walks of life such as the musician, Datuk Justin Stimol and others who share their views on the Kadazandusun way of life. It serves as an informative source of the culture of the Kadazandusuns to the young generations and to those who are interested in learning the culture.

Personally, I think it is a great effort by Vinoun Films but as for me, it could have been better, especially in terms of the direction of the documentary.

When you are writing or doing a documentary of the Kadazandusuns, you have to realize that the perimeter of the topic itself is huge. You bear the responsibilities carefully portraying the natives. From what I can tell after watching the documentary is that, I only see Kadazans, where are the Dusuns?

I favoured the scientific facts of the origins of the people but what about how the story about of how we came to exist as told by our ancestors? The Nunuk Ragang. The left a big hole on that.

And instead of ‘dividing’ the documentary into topics such as ‘Ninggat’, ‘Bobohizan’ and others (which makes the documentary ‘scattered’) because the topic that they focused on is very general, they should be focusing on specific topics such as food, folklore, dance, way of life and traditions which ‘Ninggat’ and ‘Bobohizan’ can fall under. And those random stories or experiences made me wonder, where will this documentary take me?

A thorough research should be made on every aspects on the Kadazandusun culture. For instance, the Sazau Papar, featured in the documentary, what are the significance of the movements of the hand and feet? What do these movements represent?

Touching on attire, especially the traditional costume, why is black chosen? What are the significance of the black colour what does it represent? What do the golden laces mean? What do the motifs represent? The linangkit especially. The headgear. Why must something (himpogot or tangkong) worn that way? Are there any differences of the traditional costume between single ladies, married and the elderly? And before black velvet fabric is used, what type of fabric(s) did our ancestors used back then? Handwoven maybe? And if so, why the transition from handwoven fabric to black velvet?

‘However, many indigenous people wear these modified and adapted forms and accept them as traditional. In fact, most of the traditional costumes worn by Sabah’s indigenous people are really modern adaptations of the original attire‘ *

What about traditional games? Mimpulos (arm wrestling) or rampanau (bamboo stick walking)? Aren’t these worth the attention? Aren’t these traditional games deserve to be preserved? Those handicrafts; beaded necklaces and the pinakol, how to make one? How long for a necklace to complete? In terms of the loss of a loved one. Why do we have to wait three days before the body can be buried? Why is the coffin positioned facing towards the sun? Tattoos? Before our ancestors adapted Christianity and Islam?

‘The progressive covering of the body also discouraged another traditional form of decoration and beautification – tattooing – which also used to be an indicator of social status’ **

And, of course the various folklore tales. Do you know the Tale of Two Suns or Tanaki? We grew up with the likes of English fairy tales, Hollywood blockbusters and we, the younger generations are not exposed to stories that are close to us as Kadazandusuns.  With the elderly numbers getting fewer and fewer, the effort of getting stories told by words of mouth must be put into documentation. Don’t get me started on riddles.

These are the things that the younger generations, should know.

The title ‘The Kadazandusun Story’ suggests that (at least for myself) the Kadazandusun topic is explored widely not just what we see everyday and the stories/experience told by those who were interviewed in the documentary. It also should be about our identity, what makes a Kadazandusun a Kadazandusun, the aspects that the younger generation today, tend to neglect and not know anything about. And after watching it, even though it’s okay, it wasn’t what I expected. Everything was general, the things, I know, the things that I can just key in words in the search box. I expected to watch something that I have never known before, though there we some but it wasn’t enough for me. Maybe the crew didn’t do a deeper research, a proper structure of the script, or inadequate budget (a common problem faced by all productions), I don’t know.

But nevertheless, despite of what I have said, it’s a great first effort (though it could have been better), to feature the Kadazandusuns. Maybe this first effort will spark many other effort to preserve the Kadazandusun heritage.

‘To know is to love. To know is to appreciate. To know is to be proud. To know is to preserve.’

Fancy a copy of The Kadazandusun Story, visit Vinoun Films website or on Facebook or visit North Borneo TV.

* & ** Rita Lasimbang, Stella Moo-Tan. 1997. An Introduction to the Traditional Costumes of Sabah. Kota Kinabalu. Natural History Publications in association with Department of Sabah Museum.

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3 thoughts on “The Kadazandusun Story

  1. Good post Jesse! BTW, I encouraged my boys to read more stories book on KDM tales. I found that our local library have such collection. I’m happy my boys fascinating their great great grandmother stories.

    Hey, yeah, is truth…to know is to preserve. Kounsikahan.

    • Jesse Joy says:

      Well, that is a great effort to expose your boys to KDM folklores, especially when they are still young, keep that up! During my childhood years, my grandmother would tell cousin and I bedtime stories, those scary ones especially to put us to sleep. But now that she’s gone, the stories that she had were buried with her, the stories weren’t passed on. It’s a great loss.

      But anyways, thanks for stopping by and thanks for reading. I really appreciate it. 😀

  2. Lydia Pilik says:

    Where can I get a copy of this? (DVD?/video? Documentary?)

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