Regatta Lepa 2010

Queen of Lepa Festival

The distinctive lifestyle of the nomadic Sea Bajau community in Sabah’s East Coast is characterized by their living on Lepa—they only come to the mainland for food, water supply and funerals..

Lepa is Bajau for single masted sailing boat which is usually made of Ubar Suluk or Red Seraya Wood. It is an ancient legacy which originates from fishing community inhabiting the coast of Semporna and the Bum-Bum Islands has long been the focal point of Lepa making.

The body of the Lepa consists of the pointed bow (tujjah), its body part (lepa), the walled-house structure (tapi) and the sago palm leaves-made roofing (kajang). The centre of the boat is called ‘pakajjangan’, the place for the oars called ‘panga’, and the stern called ‘pemalung’. A typical Lepa is 5 meters long and 1.5 meters wide. However, in competitions the Lepa sizes may vary.

Lepa uses two types of sails—the bigger sail, ‘lamak bua’an’; a name derived from a type of fish called ‘Bebang’, has one concave end resembling a fish’s mouth. The smaller sized sail is called ‘lamak kapis’ and is rectangular shaped. Lepa usually has colorful sailcloth made from medium weight cotton—heavier fabrics can sever the topes and break the mast during strong winds.

The Lepa would be ornately decorated with colorful decorative cloths such as ‘tipas-tipas’, which is a triangular shaped sambulayang, or ‘panji-panji’, which is rectangular shaped for festivities and weddings. Sets of traditional instruments called ‘tagungguh’ will be played on the Lepa for cultural shows.

For the Bajau people, Lepa possesses many uses apart from as a fishing vessel and as a means of transportation. It is also utilized for wedding venues and cultural performances. Nowadays, the practice of this traditional lifestyle is slowly dispersing with modernity. Few modern Bajaus use the Lepa today as many of them migrated to the mainland. Nonetheless, Lepa remains a symbol of tradition and a precious legacy for the Semporna Bajau community.

Witness a thrilling parade of flamboyant Lepas competing for the title of most beautiful. Other exciting events include a lineup of Sea Sports and the Lepa Queen pageant. Don’t miss it!

Map location of Semporna, Sabah


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