Bajau is the second largest indigenous group of Sabah. Without Bajau, the cultural world of Sabah would be a lot less colourful, because Bajau people are famous for using bold bright colours in their traditional costumes and handicrafts. Bajau has about 13 subethnic, including the Ubian, Sama, Simunul, Tolen, Pala’u, and Sikubung, all of which are named according to their place of origin or current regions.
Bajau Sama (or Bajau Samah) mainly resides in West coast of Sabah (Malaysia), especially Kota Belud and Tuaran districts. They are also known as the Cowboys of the East because of their excellent horsemanship.
Sabah Bajau Sama Cultural Centre
To preserve their cultural heritages, the building of RM7.5-million Sabah Bajau Sama Cultural Centre (Local Name: Pusat Kebudayaan Persatuan Rumpun Bajau Sama Sabah) was completed in 2022 and open to visitors who want to see the vibrant cultures of Bajau Sama, who is widely recognised as the colourful, festive, and musical people.
Gallery, the little world of Bajau Sama
The gallery of Sabah Bajau Sama Cultural Centre is the highlight. It shows everything about Bajau Sama, from handicrafts, motif, musical instruments, wedding decoration, antique to clothing. Photo-taking is allowed in the gallery.
As the most colourful tribe of Sabah, Bajau Sama uses bright yellow, red, blue and green as the main colours. Majority of the bright-coloured Sabah handicrafts such as Serdang boxes and Tudung Duang (food cover / basket) are made by Bajau Sama.
Bajau people are not only skillful in handwoven crafts, they are also good in making different kinds of parang (machete) with traditional methods, the hilt and sheath are carved out of wood with beautiful motif on them.
The place is air-conditioned and has clean toilet. You can enjoy listening to the soothing Betitik music while you are doing your business.
The gallery uses four of my photos. One of them is the big Mount Kinabalu backdrop. I’m so excited about it. Thank you Haw for choosing my works.
The most colourful section is the display of their wedding dais and bed. The wedding of Bajau is a glamorous affair with up to seven ceremonies. Sometimes it’s so splendour that it looks like a royal wedding.
The chandelier hanging on top is quite a masterpiece by Sabah Art Gallery team. It’s a conceptual chandelier that features Bubu (fish traps) and Duang (food basket). The meaning is to illustrate the importance of preserving the Bajau Sama’s heritage craft because it sheds light to the culture and way of life of their ancestors.
One of the main sections is the exhibition of various antique and metal wares made of Bronze, Copper and Brass. Besides striking colours, Bajau Sama is really fond of shiny objects too. They seem to have copper items for everything they use, for examples, Betel nut containers, plate, cookware, kettle, tray, accessories, fingernail caps, measurement cup. Having these items is a show of wealth and can be passed on as dowry and heirloom.
The information panel is available in both English and Malaysia languages, for visitors to learn about the exhibited items. If you want a guided tour, the following is the schedule for the best time to visit.
Overall, this Centre is a good starting point to see the culture of Land Bajau (Sea Bajau is totally different). The human photos in this article are not taken at the Centre.
Traditional Bajau Houses
You may explore the two traditional Bajau houses (farmer and fisherman) behind the main building. Such wooden houses are getting rare when most people prefer brick and mortar building nowadays. There is a mini herbs garden there too.
You can try out horse riding at the Centre. A staff will company you and the horse for a safe stroll around the track.
Bajau Sama are skilled horse riders and love their horses. During festivals such as Tamu Besar (grand open market) in Kota Belud, Bajau horsemen wear traditional costumes in the parade, and their horses wear colourful clothing steeds too. It’s like dressing up your pet in next level up.
Normally, there is no Bajau people dressed in traditional costumes stationed at the Centre to show some actions. For a more complete cultural experience, you may come in group and add in some activities (fees applicable and need to book in advance) such as Penjaram cooking demo and food sampling (RM150) and cultural dance (RM1,000 to RM2,000).
Other Services / Facilities
The Centre is suitable for hosting events such as wedding, meeting and gathering. The outdoor stage, main hall, conference room, chairs and desks are available for rent for a fee.
Tickets and Opening Hours
|Child (4-12 years old)||RM5||RM10|
|Senior (60 and above)||RM5||RM10|
|Baby (below 4)||Free||Free|
|Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Public Holidays||8am-12pm and 2pm-4:30pm|
|Friday||8am-11:30am and 2pm-4:30pm|
Contact of the Centre
How to get there
Sabah Bajau Sama Cultural Centre is in Tuaran and about 34 Kilometres from Kota Kinabalu City. You can reach there within an hour by driving on asphalt road.
Address: Komplex Budaya PKRBSS, Kampung Lok Batik, Tuaran, Sabah, Malaysia
GPS: 6.1659205915238955, 116.18589156295744
Cultural heritage, be it tangible or intangible, is an important asset of a race, so it’s crucial to preserve and document our indigenous cultures, to get some protection against culture appropriation. Large international companies such as Dior would steal the ideas of native art pieces and claim that’s their original concept.
Photos taken in Tuaran, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo