Duniart – Photography and Blog by Toine IJsseldijk

Tana Toraja – Sulawesi

Tana Toraja is a region protected beyond the lofty mountains and rugged granite cliffs of the central highlands of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. It is the home of the Toraja people, an ethnic group indigenous to a mountainous region of South Sulawesi. The nobility of Toraja are believed to be descendants of heavenly beings who came down by a heavenly stairway to live here on earth. Dutch colonizers Christianized Torajans in the early 1900s, but today they still adhere to their age-old beliefs, rituals and traditions and their culture has continued to revolve heavily around the celebration of death. The Toraja people have some of the most complex and unique funeral practices in the world.
When a loved one dies, their body is often kept in the family’s home for months—sometimes years—before eventually being buried in graves carved into the sides of the caves or hung from the outside on cliffs. The corpses are periodically removed to perform the Ma’nene ceremony, where the corpses are cleaned, redressed, and exhibited in the village before being re-buried with things they will need in the afterlife: clothes, cigarettes and money.
The funeral ceremony itself, known as Rambu Solo, is a multi-day affair filled with mourning, traditional dance, cock fights, and ritual animal sacrifice, followed by a huge feast. The higher the deceased’s status in society, the more extravagant and lengthy the ceremony.
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