Kadazandusun Culture: A Window into the Soul of Sabah

A Kadazandusun culture refers to the people’s collective beliefs, customs, and practices in Borneo, known as the Kadazandusun. It is the largest indigenous group in the state of Sabah. They have been influenced by their environment, history, and interaction with neighboring communities over the years. This article provides an overview of Kadazandusun culture, emphasizing its unique characteristics and importance as a cultural phenomenon.

Kadazandusun culture is a blend of indigenous beliefs, customs, and practices. This article explores its unique aspects, including traditional dances and intricate handicrafts.

Kadazan Festival History

Indigenous Kadazandusun people live in Sabah on Borneo. They have different dialects and customs but share a common cultural heritage.

The Kadazandusun culture goes back 20,000 years, with the earliest evidence of human habitation dating from 20,000 years ago. The Kadazandusun has an extensive and complex history linked closely with Sabah’s.

The Bruneian Empire’s arrival in the 15th century was one of the earliest recorded historical events involving the Kadazunu people. The Bruneians established a presence in the region and influenced local culture and customs.

The British colonized the Kadazandusun culture during the 19th century. The British established a presence in Sabah and controlled the region, including the Kadazandusun culture. They have profoundly impacted the Kadazandusun culture since they were exposed to various ideas and technologies during the British colonial period.

The Kadazandusun people asserted their cultural identity and autonomy after the British left Sabah in the 1960s. In 1963, Sabah joined the newly formed Federation of Malaysia, making the Kadazandusun people one of its indigenous groups.

Kadazandusuns have maintained their cultural heritage and traditions while adapting to the modern world. They are an integral part of Sabah’s social and cultural fabric.


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Kadazan festival history facts

Kadazans celebrate several festivals throughout the year steeped in tradition and culture. Here are some historical facts about some Kadazan festivals:

Kaamatan Festival: Kaamatan is also known as the Harvest Festival by the Kadazandusun culture. It is held in May to thank the rice spirit for a plentiful harvest. A beauty pageant known as Unduk Ngadau is part of the festival, which includes traditional dance performances, music, and food.

Pesta Kalimaran: This is one of the largest festivals in Sabah, celebrating the spirits and ancestors of the Dusun people and praying for happiness, health, and prosperity.

Regatta Lepa: As a maritime ethnic group in Sabah, the Bajau people celebrate this festival in April. A lepa is a wooden sailing boat decorated with intricate designs. The festival commemorates the leap and the sea in Semporna. The festival offers lepa races, traditional dance performances, and food.

Tadau Kaamatan: This festival is a version of Kaamatan celebrated by the Kadazan people in Sarawak. It is held in June as an expression of thanks to rice spirits for a bountiful harvest. It includes traditional dances, music, and food.

As well as being an opportunity for the Kadazan people to unite and celebrate their history, these festivals are essential to them as they reflect their history, traditions, and cultural practices.

Kadazan-Dusun food

Kadazan-Dusun food refers to the traditional cuisine of the Kadazan-Dusun people, who are the largest ethnic group in the state of Sabah, Malaysia. Their cuisine is known for its distinctive use of local ingredients and flavors.

One popular dish is hinava, which is a raw fish salad made with fresh fish, lime juice, chili, ginger, and sliced shallots. Another popular dish is bambangan, a type of wild mango that is often used in dishes such as sayur bambangan (a vegetable dish) and sambal bambangan (a spicy relish).

Other common ingredients in Kadazan-Dusun cuisine include rice, tapioca, sago, and various types of vegetables and herbs. A popular dish that features many of these ingredients is hinompuka, which is a steamed dish made with grated tapioca, grated coconut, and palm sugar.

Other popular dishes include bosou (fermented fish), tuhau (wild ginger), and ambuyat (a type of starchy food made from sago). Desserts such as kuih cincin (sweet glutinous rice cakes) and linopot (sticky rice cooked in bamboo) are also common in Kadazan-Dusun cuisine.


Kadazan dusun food history

There is a close connection between Kadazan-Dusun food and the culture and traditions of the Kadazan-Dusun people in Malaysia, the largest ethnic group there.

Traditional Kadazan-Dusun farming methods involved clearing and burning forests for new crops, adversely affecting the region’s plant and animal diversity. Rice has been a staple crop for the Kadazan-Dusun for centuries.

It is believed that the Kadazan-Dusun people developed a cuisine that utilized their environment’s diversity of ingredients. They use herbs and spices such as ginger, turmeric, and lemongrass in their cooking.

The Kadazan-Dusun diet also includes fish and seafood, with many traditional dishes featuring fish from rivers and streams. Fish is also fermented, called bosou, by the Kadazan-Dusun people.

Kadazan-Dusun people also eat wild game, such as wild boar and deer, and vegetables and fruits like tapioca, sago, and bambangan (wild mango).

Kadazan-Dusuns also has a strong tradition of communal cooking and eating. Traditional dishes are prepared and shared during social gatherings and celebrations.

Despite its unique ingredients and flavors, Kadazan-Dusun cuisine remains a significant part of the Kadazan-Dusun cultural heritage.


Kadazan dusun food recipes

Kadazan Dusun cuisine is a traditional cuisine from the Kadazan Dusun people in Sabah, Malaysia. It mixes indigenous ingredients and cooking techniques from the surrounding regions, including Chinese, Malay, and Indonesian influences. Here are a few popular Kadazan Dusun food recipes you might enjoy:

Hinava Salad

1 lb of fresh mackerel
4-5 shallots, thinly sliced
2 red chili peppers, thinly sliced
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup of sliced red onions
Salt to taste


Clean the mackerel and remove the head, tail, and bones. Cut it into small pieces.
In a bowl, mix the mackerel with the shallots, chili peppers, lime juice, and salt.
Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
Before serving, add the sliced red onions and mix well.



1 cup of sago starch
4 cups of water


In a large pot, bring the water to a boil.
Gradually add the sago starch, stirring constantly until it thickens and becomes sticky.
Use chopsticks or a spoon to pull a small amount of the mixture from the pot and swirl it around in the sauce before putting it in your mouth.



1 lb of boneless chicken, cut into small pieces
2 cups of sliced pineapple
2 stalks of lemongrass, bruised
2-3 red chili peppers, sliced
2-3 shallots, sliced
1 tablespoon of turmeric powder
1 tablespoon of salt
1/2 cup of water

Banana leaves


In a pan, sauté the shallots, chili peppers, and turmeric powder until fragrant.
Add the chicken and cook until it’s browned on all sides.
Add the sliced pineapple, lemongrass, salt, and water to the pan and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes. Place the mixture on a banana leaf, wrap it up tightly, and steam for 10-15 minutes.
Serve with rice.



1 kg of fresh fish
2-3 stalks of lemongrass, bruised
5-6 bird’s eye chili peppers
1 cup of salt


Clean the fish and cut it into small pieces.
In a large bowl, mix the fish with the lemongrass, chili peppers, and salt.
Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let it ferment for 2-3 days at room temperature.
Serve with rice.



1 cup of sliced tuhau (wild ginger)
1/2 cup of sliced red onions
1/4 cup of sliced red chili peppers
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/4 cup of vinegar


In a bowl, mix the tuhau, red onions, and chili peppers.
Add the salt, sugar, and vinegar and mix well.
Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
Serve as a condiment with rice or other dishes.

Kadazan traditional games

Kadazan traditional games are a diverse collection of games and pastimes played by the Kadazan people, an indigenous group of Sabah, Malaysia. These games are deeply rooted in Kadazan culture and are often played during festivals, weddings, and other cherished occasions.

Sumazau: Sumazau is a traditional Kadazan dance performed during celebrations and festivals. It is a slow and graceful dance often accompanied by the gong and other traditional musical instruments.

Sogit: Sogit is a traditional Kadazan game that involves throwing a dart at a target. The target is typically made from a bamboo stick and placed far from the player. The player who scores the most points wins.

Magavau: Magavau is a traditional Kadazan ritual before the farming season. It involves the sacrifice of a buffalo and praying to the gods.

Haida: Haida is a traditional Kadazan game similar to hockey. It is played with a curved stick and a rattan ball. The game is often played on a field, and the objective is to score goals.

Sugandoi: Sugandoi is a traditional Kadazan singing competition often held during festivals and celebrations. The competition involves contestants singing classic Kadazan songs and is judged based on their performance.

Momogun: Momogun is a traditional Kadazan game played with a bamboo pole. The objective is to hit a rattan ball with the pole and score points.

Kadazan tug-of-war: Tug-of-war is a popular game in many cultures, and the Kadazan people have their version. It is played with a rope and involves two teams pulling against each other. The team that pushes the other team across the line wins.

These are just a few examples of the many traditional games played by the Kadazan people. They constitute a significant part of Kadazan culture and are still played and enjoyed today.


Kadazandusun culture is a fascinating and meaningful part of Malaysia’s cultural heritage. From the close relationship with nature to the elaborate wedding ceremonies, the Kadazandusun people have a rich and diverse cultural heritage worth exploring and celebrating. By learning more about this culture, we can better understand the importance of human diversity and the need to preserve indigenous cultures for future generations.


Q No 1: What are some defining elements of Kadazandusun culture?
A: Some key elements of Kadazandusun culture include the close relationship with nature, the significance of the paddy field, the elaborate wedding ceremony, vibrant festivals and celebrations, and intricate handicrafts.

Q No 2: What are some famous festivals in Kadazandusun culture?
A: Some famous festivals in Kadazandusun culture include the “Kaamatan” or “Harvest Festival” and the “Tadau Kaamatan” or “Pesta Kaamatan.”