KENINGAU: At this time of the year, Mohd Azrul Fildza Abdullah’s boutique, here is a hive of activity as he and his wife race against time to meet the numerous orders for hand-stitched ethnic costumes.
It is now Kaamatan time in the Land Below the Wind and this is when the locals don their traditional garments to participate in the various events that are usually held in conjunction with the festival‘s month-long celebrations.
“This is a busy time for me as I‘ve to complete all the orders I‘ve received for Kaamatan,” Mohd Azrul Fildza, 41, told Bernama recently when met at his small boutique, Azma Trading, which he runs with his 36-year-old wife Fatma Zainal.
Mohd Azrul, a Kadazan, has been receiving orders for the traditional garments since April.
“I‘ve stopped taking new orders because these clothes have to be sewn with great precision. Some ethnic groups” traditional clothes are quite tedious to sew. In fact, it may take me two or three months to complete one set,” he said.
The traditional outfit worn by the Kadazans in Penampang, also known as the sinombiaka, was easier to sew, he said, adding that he and his wife could complete three to five sets of these garments a day.
“For the sinombiaka, we just have to add gold-coloured and red lace trimmings to the clothes. In contrast, the Tindal (a Dusun sub-ethnic group) people who hail from Kota Belud have such intricate costumes which can take us two to three months to complete as they require embroidered motifs,” explained Mohd Azrul.
The Tindal sub-ethnic group“s traditional costumes, he added, were more vibrant to look at as they were adorned with red and yellow sequins and gold-coloured buttons.
Mohd Azrul“s boutique has earned a reputation as one of the best shops in the state to secure ethnic garments for Kaamatan.
He also receives orders for traditional garments from Sabahans residing in Peninsular Malaysia and even overseas.
“Several customers of ours working in countries like Japan and Australia have ordered clothes from us through our Facebook and Instagram (azmatrading) pages,” he said.
Kaamatan, an annual rice harvest festival, is among the major cultural festivals observed by the Kadazandusun - the largest indigenous group in Sabah - Murut and Rungus ethnic groups in Sabah.
The festivities, which usually kick off in the beginning of May and include carnivals and traditional performances, peak on May 30 and 31 which are public holidays in the state.
The climax of the celebrations will take place at the Kadazandusun Cultural Association‘s Hongkod Koisaan hall in Penampang, located on the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu.
The people themselves will be the highlight at the closing events as they will all be resplendently decked out in their respective ethnic wear.
Interestingly, Sabah‘s traditional costumes come mainly in hues of black as it is believed that the colour symbolised power that is capable of protecting the wearer against evil spirits.
Some quarters also believed that the colour suited the lifestyle of the ethnic people whose forefathers had lived in a state of nature.
Sabah has over 30 ethnic groups, each with its own rich heritage of traditional costumes and cultural practices that reflect their unique identity.
“Many people have the perception that the traditional costumes all look the same. This is not true as they have different designs, depending on which ethnic group or sub-ethnic group they belong to and their place of origin.
The misconception that they are all the same may be due to the fact that the costumes are mainly black in colour,” said Mohd Azrul.
Sabah traditional costumes, nevertheless, have a few things in common, namely the black fabric and the red and gold lace trimmings.
“What sets them apart are their cuts and motifs, and the use of accessories like beads and sequins,” he added.
The costumes could even differ among the sub-ethnic groups of a particular indigenous group.
“For example, the traditional dress of the Dusun Lotud sub-ethnic group in Tuaran is different from the costume of the Dusun Liwan sub-ethnic group in Tambunan,” pointed out Mohd Azrul.
“The Dusun Lotud costume is full of triangular motifs that are stitched together with white beads. The top portion also has large gold-coloured buttons, while the skirt (for the women) has embroidery work.”
The Dusun Liwan costume does not feature beads or sequins but is embellished with the himpogot or “money belt” made from coins.
Mohd Azrul“s boutique, which he opened in 2015, is also stocked with ready-to-wear traditional costumes, priced at between RM300 and RM2,000, to meet the needs of customers who do not have the time to get their garments tailored.
Also available at the shop are traditional accessories like the himpogot, Murut headgear and tangkong, which is a belt consisting of numerous brass rings strung together by rattan and worn by Kadazandusun women.
Customers can also choose to rent the boutique’s clothes and accessories at a rental of about RM80.
The couple also plan to start a wholesale business and sell their traditional costumes to selected agents throughout the state. –- BERNAMA