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Tamu Donggongon

Posted By Dennelton on Tuesday, September 15, 2015 | 19:05

Since time immoral the tribes in Sabah have been holding their local markets or Tamus. Predominately located on the West coast of Sabah, these tamus were held once a week and provided an opportunity for the farmers in the surrounding hills and mountains to travel to the lowlands and trade with the Seafaring tribes on the coast.

Tamu grounds were located in convenient, shady areas, usually on flat ground close to both the hills and the sea and with easy accesses to the various tribes and traders. Headhunting and slavery was rife if the old days, so travelling to the tamu and meeting with your enemies were not very conducive to trading. To overcome this, oath stones were erected in the middle of the Tamu ground and the various tribes swore to honour the truce of market day. Today these oath stones can still be found at some of the older tamu grounds and in keeping with tradition they are also erected when the government opens a new tamu ground. In the old days, weapons were surrendered at the entrance to the tamu before you could enter the grounds and an important aspect to keep the peace as many of the traders and shoppers were very fond of imbibing on the various local brews.

Local cakes.
Besides trading, the tamus are also opportunities to meet up with old and new friends, catch up on the local gossip. During the colonial days, the officers of the British North Borneo Company used the tamu as a means of gathering information and distributing information on government policies.

Today the tamu has not changed very much at all and there is a tamu held almost everyday of the week in Sabah. One often hears about the Sunday Tamu at Kota Belud and also the Gaya street market, while these are very interesting in their own way, I have always had a fondness for the Penampang Tamu. This is held at the tamu grounds in Donggongon, which is the main town of Penampang, and it’s only a 20-minute drive away from the City. The tamu here is held for 2 consecutive days every Thursday and Friday. By Wednesday
The betel ladies.
evening, many of the traders and farmers from the distant villages will have started to set up their stalls and they usually sleep at their stalls for the duration of the Tamu . The market opens almost as soon as it is daybreak and you will find a good mix of traditional and modern items for sale.

There are also temperate vegetables from the highlands together with lowland greens, jungle ferns and local vegetables from the swamps. Jars of pickled wild mango (Bambangan) and jungle gingers (Tuhau) sit side by side with “Takob akob”a dried sour fruit and packets of Sago starch. Also, tropical fruit seedlings with houseplants and orchids and in another section, while a few Chinese traders sell farming implements, hardware and fertilisers. Local Dusun ladies sell various grades of locally grown tobacco together with dried palm leaves to use as cigarette papers and they also carry all the requisites for making a beetle quid. A habit that is slowly but surely dying a natural death as nobody considers the habit of chewing betel nut, beetle leaves, baked seashell powder and other items as very appetising anymore.

Handicraft stall.
Right in the middle of the Tamu ground is an area where you will find some local handicraft. Many of the stalls here belong to ladies from the interior villages and they sell traditional accessories in the form of beads, imitation silver coin belts, locally made brass bangles and traditional costumes. Rungus men from Kudat in the north of Sabah come down and sell their hand made metal gongs. They are often beating out a melody to advertise their wares and spontaneously inviting visitors to dance the traditional sumazau dance with them. You will also find the traditional healers selling their various herbs and oils, promising to cure you of all your modern ailments.

Another part of the tamu, houses the colourful local cake section where many traditional delicacies are cooked on the spot. Other stalls sell various kinds of rice, free range chickens, live freshwater eels and fish while the Obian and Bajau folks from the nearby islands sell various types of fresh cockles, giant clam meat, and seaweed amidst heaps of dried fish, whitebait and dried shrimps.

Its best to visit the tamu on Thursday mornings as it is at its most vibrant and is a great opportunity to catch a glimpse into a very culturally important aspect of the local people of Sabah.

Text and photos by DAVID DE LA HARPE 
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The Editor

I'm Dennelton from Sabah, editor of www.tvokm.com. I am a blogger since 2008, i have a great interest about blogging and seeking additional income through the internet. Follow me with like our official Facebook Page HERE

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