Sabah Fest 2011: Cultural extravaganza in store
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.
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