Thursday, September 30, 2010

Who says Dusun weddings are black and white?

My nephew’s wedding was celebrated last weekend. The occasion was another opportunity to meet with the clan and renew family ties with seldom-seen, almost forgotten, distant relatives. It was also the time to show off the Dusun traditional costumes of Kota Belud.

And what a colourful show it was!

The bridal couple arrived, glittering in their fineries, a fancy umbrella held high over their heads during the five-second stroll from the car to the house! The word ‘fancy’ doesn’t really describe the umbrellas which had been painstakingly re-done in egg-yolk yellow and decorated with zigzags, geometrical motifs and a tasseled zigzagged hem.

The Dusuns of yore used these umbrellas? Probably the idea, if not the contraptions, was borrowed from the Bajaus!

The actual marriage ceremony has been modernized. Bride and groom read their vows and promised to have and to hold, and all that stuff, from a prepared script… in the presence of the Headman and in front of everybody.

During my mother’s time (and when I was a kid) the bride was nowhere to be seen at her own wedding! I had asked my mother why the bride was hidden from view but her answer hadn’t been very helpful: Yo no loh mogiponou yo. ‘That was what it was like when people got married.’ See? I told you she wasn’t helpful!

Another thing I remember, in the old days, the bride arrived at the groom’s with an embroidered, black hood over her head… not a decorated umbrella. And she had to walk of course, used her own two legs. Why wasn’t a buffalo used to carry the bride, you say? Well, as far as I know, buffaloes were used only to work in the paddy fields. The people probably didn’t want to burden them (buffaloes) with extra duties such as transporting brides to the grooms. But we’re taking the wrong turning here. I want to tell you about the wedding costumes.

W-e-d-d-i-n-g… I’ve to make sure I spelt that correctly because several times I’ve come across people writing about the weeding they attended. You’d think they went weeding in their paddy fields instead of going to make merry at a wedding. Tsk-tsk-tsk…

Anyway, the wedding costumes are elaborate and colourful and many of us don’t even know what some of the objects are called. They have become so rare and expensive that most Dusuns just opt to wear jackets and gowns for their weddings.

As you can see from the picture below, I’ve tried to label the wedding attires and accessories but I’m a novice at Paint, hence that blue line which refused to be replaced with yellow.

                                                          (Click on photo to enlarge)

Sinipak: black velvet blouse; the sleeve is slashed at the elbow where coloured layers of cloth are inserted. An embroidered panel (linangkit) with silver trimming is sewn above the elbow. The groom wears the sinipak over a long-sleeved white shirt.

Gonob: The bride’s knee-length, black skirt which has embroidery of yellow, white, red and green along the hems and seams.

Seluwar: Traditional trousers, black and with a very wide waist

Sigar: Male headwear made of hand-woven material using fibres from a kind of banana tree.

Sunduk: Bride’s black, embroidered hood

Lolopot: Two folded kain dastar (similar to male headwear) placed diagonally over the chest and secured at the waist. At the shoulders, the corners are left to jut out so they resemble collars.

Barantina: Belt made of huge silver coins

Simpogot: Ornaments made of connected silver coins worn below the barantina. The number of coins hints at the wealth of the wearer.

Sinuhudan: Rows of antique beads strung on strings and worn one above the other (like a fitted girdle) on the hips

Kuapu/kiupu: Little tobacco containers of silver decorated with engravings. Three or four are hung on a silver chain and worn around the neck.

Saring pirok: Engraved silver bangles

Note: I have taken care to use the ‘correct’ names but please check other sources…I hope a Dusun costume ‘expert’ stumbles onto this page and helps to enlighten us all!

(Sorry, the post is less than satisfactory. Still learning!)


  1. whew! you made a neat inventory for Dusun's traditional costume here. (i dont have any idea in this department-sorry, cant comment much).

    i guess you're correct in saying about the umbrella (Bajau influence). we dont have that in our traditional wedding (which is VERY rare nowadays in Ranau)

    i have a student from KB. his mom is a traditional costume maker. i'll seek for enlightment. great post!

  2. Hi Kukuanga,
    Thanks for stopping by! Will appreciate any new information about the traditional dress.