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Keeping Rungus language, traditions alive via Magahau Festival

30th July, 2018


KOTA KINABALU: The Rungus language and traditions are being kept alive in the annual Magahau Festival which is pushing the sub-ethnic group into the international limelight through modernisation.

The most notable event in the festival according to President of Sabah Momogun Rungus Association (SAMORA), Datuk Jelani Hamdan is the Rungus beauty pageant known as the Gimpuhut Momogun Rungus.

Twenty-one talents between the ages of 18 to 25 from seven zones across Sabah will compete at state level in the annual event where the crowned champion will stand a chance to further promote Rungus culture in Europe.

The winner will also serve as an ambassador to the association either at the World Travel Market 2018 hosted in London or the Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB) in Berlin sometime towards the end of the year.

According to Jelani, modernising and keeping traditional Rungus costumes fresh is what gives the competition a slight difference to the Unduk Ngadau beauty pageant.

“SAMORA puts its focus in improvising traditional costumes to see its commercialisation potential in the world fashion industry.

“Bangles called ‘gangalung’ usually worn by women that stretches from their calves to ankles have been minimalised to make it a more practical fashion accessory while still staying true to the original design,” he told a press conference at the Sabah Museum yesterday.

Preserving the language is equally important Jelani said, as being fluent in Rungus is compulsory for the beauty contestants; a battle of the bands competition which follows the same rule also incorporates traditional Rungus instruments like the sundatang (lute) and tontong (drum).

“A lot of the 250,000 Rungus people in Sabah are of mixed race and participants of our events who fall in the same lot have slowly re-learned the language, bringing them closer to their roots.

“For instance, Tanjung Simpang Mengayau in Kudat was originally known in Rungus as ‘Tomui Sabpang Pangazou’. Many Rungus people are unaware of this and programmes like these act as an enlightenment to their culture,” he said.

Eighteen-year-old Shyvorne April Jones, current SAMORA ambassador and winner of Unduk Ngadau Matunggong 2018 was born in Johor to a Rungus mother and a Caucasian father from the United Kingdom.

She, speaking with a Peninsular Malaysian slang, said she is now capable of making short conversations in her native language and feels closer to her roots after participating in various activities with SAMORA.

The event’s climax, the crowning of the Gimpuhit, will take place at the Puruvan Square longhouse in Mattungong at 3pm tomorrow (Tuesday) and will be attended by Deputy Chief Minister cum Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Jaujan Sambakong.

RM 10,000 in cash awaits the winner who in addition to taking home the crown and sash, will also soon be also packing their bags and headed for Europe.

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