For Malaysians who come from Sabah and Sarawak, the annual rice harvest is a time for the indigenous communities to celebrate and give thanks to traditional deities and spirits for the year’s bounty.
In Sabah, it’s known as Kaamatan – derived from tomo, the local Kadazandusun word for “harvest” – which honours a female deity who sacrificed herself to bring about the harvest. Kaamatan festival falls on May 30 and 31.
After the completion of important rituals conducted by bobohizan, or high priestesses who act as spiritual custodians of the community, Kaamatan celebrations typically include festive gatherings where the indigenous communities, adorn in traditional garb, eat local food and drink too much homebrew. Other events include dancing, beauty pageants, buffalo races, and so on. Think of it as East Malaysia’s own version of a rodeo.
Meanwhile, in Sarawak, it’s Gawai – a word meaning “festival” in the Dayak language – celebrations fall on June 1 and June 2. Celebrations typically take place in longhouses, where much feasting, drinking, singing and dancing happens. Merriment can sometimes last for a whole month. Definitely not a festival for the faint-hearted.
Petronas, which has been releasing Gawai and Kaamatan-themed advertisements for several years now, has released this year’s installments just in time for the annual celebrations. Check them out!