Kimaragang folk hoist 100 flags of unity

By JONISTON BANGKUAI

New Straits Times Online

Saturday September 24, 2011

Kimaragang elder Alias Tudin Sapaun explaining the meaning of the seven-tier wooden altar on display at the traditional feast festival or moginakan in Pitas yesterday. — NST picture by Edmund Samunting

PITAS: A sea of more than 100 red, blue, yellow and white flags greeted visitors to the two-day Kimaragang traditional feast festival which ended yesterday.
The flags represented the various Kimaragang villages taking part in the feast called “moginakan” held annually by the community.

Rich in culture and tradition, the Kimaragang is one of the numerous indigenous ethnic groups in Sabah. They belong to the Dusunic branch of the Austronesian language family.

The hoisting of the flags was to show the unity among the community consistent with the festival’s theme of Sumintor Om Matog Sid Pinitutungkusan Kimaragang or “Standing United for the Kimaragang Culture”.

Erected in front of the flags was a seven-tier wooden altar called tinambalai to symbolise the Kimaragang’s traditional belief of the existence of seven kinorohingan or “gods” as well as to illustrate the level of achievement of the various villages in terms of harvest.

Kimaragang elder Alias Tudin Sapaun said it was the community’s belief that after 24 hours, one of the flags would fall, indicating that one of the villages may face some form of a catastrophe that would require the other villages to come together to provide a helping hand.

“Although we are a minority ethnic group in Sabah, the Kimaragang is rich in culture and tradition and we are determined to preserve them for the benefit of future generations,” he said.

Like the other ethnic groups in the state, the Kimaragang believe that their ancestors originated from Yunan in China, although of late some have claimed that they could have originated from Mindanao in the Philippines.

How did the tribe come to be known as Kimaragang?

Alias said in the old days clothes worn by the community were made from tree barks which are aragang or red in colour and as a result they were called Kimaragang.

Mainly concentrated in the hilly areas here and in the nearby Kota Marudu district north of Sabah, the Kimaragang population in the state is estimated to be about 100,000.

A body called United Sabah Kimaragang Association (PKSB) was formed in the early 1990s in a move to preserve its culture and protect the interests of the community.

PKSB president Baintin Adun said a vast majority of the Kimaragang community are still living in poverty, with many of them still practising shifting cultivation.

“There is no denying that some of us are now doing well in various fields, but the majority of the community are still living from hand to mouth,” Baintin said.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, who was represented by state assembly speaker Datuk Seri Salleh Tun Said at the opening of the event, assured that development efforts would be intensified to free the Kimaragang community from the clutches of poverty.

He said among the steps taken was to award landless members of the community with communal land titles which they could develop with assistance from the relevant government agencies to ensure a sustainable income.

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