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Another cultural extravaganza in store
Published on: Friday, March 25, 2011

Kota Kinabalu: First started as a street parade, Sabah Fest 2011 enters its 23rd anniversary with a cultural extravaganza themed "Pa'pakang, the Odyssey of Seven Brothers" scheduled on April 30 at Sutera Magellan Grand Ballroom, said Sitti Damsal, General Manager of Sri Pelancongan Sabah Sdn Bhd, Thursday.

A public premier show follows on May 1, starting at 7pm. Sabah stands out as the richest State in terms of ethnic and cultural diversity which, however, is often hidden, in deep interior of far-flung coasts or even islands.

Which raises the question: How to make this proud and exclusive heritage visible to the world.

The answer is an annual Sabah Fest which congregates all 32 indigenous groups in one place, dressed in full traditional costumes with a maximum display of their variant cultural elements - such as dance, music, cuisine and handicraft.

Because it is more than two decades old, Sabah Fest has gained a good measure of maturity, with a quality show that comes along with it.

Year in and year out, the big 'do' still surprise visitors and even locals, when they actually see the sharply contrasting depth and extent of ethnic possibilities as organisers take pains to extract real indigenous ethnic groups from their original village roots and concentrate them in one place each year, for a musical theatre style hour-long production based on Sabah's many legends.

As Sabah Tourism Board Chairman, Tengku Datuk Dr Zainal Adlin, has put it: "The beauty is not necessarily in colourful costumes but ethnic authenticity."

Add a unique traditional tolerance to ethnic diversity, Sabah brands itself positively to the outside world who often say they like what they see.

Legends may not be historical facts but they nevertheless tell stories around which musical directors can cast diverse ethnic groups like contrasting characters in one single production.

So the story of this year's legend centres around seven contentious sons of Nunuk Ragang Chief of Tompios, who coveted a mystical stone called Pa'pakang. But only one wins - Aki Lintobon, the youngest son, who succeeded in retrieving it from the river bottom. Being covetous, the brothers fought for ownership of the stone.

The strife stressed Nunuk Ragang who smashed the stone into seven pieces and gave each son a piece to remind them of their heritage and home.

But the even a fair inheritance didn't bring peace either.

Bad times hit, resources in Tompios dwindled, people struggled to make ends meet, fought each other and headhunting to assert supremacy escalated. They attributed the social breakdown and conflict to judgement from the gods, forcing them to migrate to escape the suffering.

The six elder brothers led their people to different parts of Sabah, while Aki Lintobon, the youngest sibling, stayed back in Tompios and vowed to reunite his brothers.

So, the show portrays Aki Lintobon's long wandering voyage or odyssey across the land of ancient Sabah to reunite long lost brothers and the stone of Pa'pa'kang.

For ticket reservations or purchase, contact Jane Lai, Sri Pelancongang Sabah Sdn Bhd at 988-232121 or Sabah Tourism Board 088-212121.

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