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The Kadazandusun

Introducing the Kadazandusun

The Kadazandusun are the largest ethnic group in Sabah, making up 33% of the state’s population. They comprise over 40 sub-ethnic groups, of whom around 75% are Christian and 15% Muslim while a minority adhere to traditional beliefs. They are predominantly wet rice and hill rice cultivators and also rear water buffalo. Their various languages belong to the Dusunic family their ancient beliefs are based on the premise that everything has life – rocks, trees, and rivers are all living things.

The Kadazandusun are noted for their use of bobohizan (priestesses) for mediating with the spirit world. This is particularly important at Pesta Kaamatan, a celebration to honour the Rice Spirit (Bambaazon or Bambarayon) and give thanks for a bountiful harvest which falls at the end of May. The bobohizan conduct all of the necessary rituals, both in the rice paddies and the villages, and also select the festival queen or Unduk Ngadau (Zenith of the Sun), who represents all that is virtuous in Kadazandusun womanhood.

The Kadazandusun are well known for their basketry and musical instruments made of bamboo, as well as finely wrought brass gongs. The Rungus sub-group produce beautiful beaded necklaces, whose patterns recount ancient legends, with human figures picked out with bright hues in the beadwork.

Kadazandusun Links

What’s Going On?: Film student Jesse is the definitive Kadazandusun blogger (amongst various other interests).

Sumandak Sino Kadazan: A charming blog about Kadazandusun music, with translations of the lyrics.

Kadazandusun Ethnic: A Kadazandusun Blogger ponders the many aspects of ethnic identity.

Traditional Costumes: A nice page about traditional costumes from the Kadazandusun Cultural Association.

Recommended Reading

This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature,Environment by Roger Gottleib: Philosopher Roger Gottleib’s critically acclaimed volume has a revealing and fascinating chapter about the Pesta Kaamatan.

Food, Friends and Funerals by Elizabeth Koepping: A prominent anthropologist and theologist offers some remarkable insights into Kadazandusun society and beliefs.

Kadazandusun Ladies