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Old Posted Jul 3, 2011, 4:40 PM
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i n d o n e s i a - Part 2: SULAWESI

The second part of my 3 part Indonesia series which also follows on from my my Malaysia (here) and Singapore (here) threads of my South East Asia trip, covers the strangely shaped island of Sulawesi.
Flying from Surabaya in Java (part 1 of Indonesia), I landed in the city of Makassar before heading into the mountainous area of Tana Toraja, an absolutely amazing yet bizaare place, a fascinating anthropological experience. The Torajan people are known for their elaborate but gruesome funeral ceremonies in which any number of buffalo and pigs are sacrificed. The people are animist (and protestant, strangely), and believe that in order for the soul of the human to reach the afterlife, an animal must also be killed so that the soul of the animal can carry the soul of the human. Anyway, I was fortunate enough to go to a funeral, and I thus begin this thread with a WARNING. Whilst I have not included any pictures of animal killing, the build up and aftermath are covered, so if you are likely to be offended look no further. I do not condone animal mistreatment, and neither do I gain any pleasure from watching such a thing. I do however try not to judge different cultures, and I always strive to immerse myself as much as possible. So please view this thread without judgment, and enjoy what I believe to be a fascinating cultural, anthropological and ethnological insight into a unique part of the world.




I begin in the rather grubby and somewhat un-noteworthy city of Makassar
























From Makassar I took a 9 hour bus up into the highlands of South Sulawesi. The main town is called Rantepao, and the surrounding countryside is amazing, beautiful rice terraces and the distinct uniquely shaped houses




























The next day I was able to go to the funeral. As a respect for the deceased family I gave the standard massive carton of cigarettes (got to love Indonesians and their love of smoking, haha).
So the belief, as I mentioned, is that the soul of the animal is needed to carry the human soul to the afterlife. Prior to the funeral, the deceased is kept in the family home, and is not treated as dead, but as a sick man (or woman). Only when the money and buffalo have been gathered will the funeral take place, and only the will the deceased be considered truly dead.
The people of Tana Toraja are said to live their lives in preparation of death. This is certainly true. They work to save up money to by a buffalo for sacrifice at the funerals of relatives. Even if a Torajan makes it big and gets a decent job in Jakarta, he will still use the money to buy even more buffalo. Thus the funerals are grand affairs, and the richer the deceased man, the more buffalo are killed. Local villages also donate pigs and buffalo.
In return the meat from the animals are divided up and handed out to each family of the village, and to local villages. At the funeral there is a large meeting held between the village chief and the family of the deceased in which they decide in which order to sacrifice which animals, and how to divide up the meat,
This all made me feel a lot better about the killing, at least I knew nothing of the animal went to waste. The meat went to poor villagers who don’t usually get the chance to eat it, and the skin is sent to java to make leather puppets.
The funeral was mind-blowing, the atmosphere was strange, the whole thing was crazy, I wouldn't go again, but it was certainly amazing.






















































Following the funeral I spent the week cruising around the countryside on a motorbike. I visited a a few local Torajan graveyards. After the funeral, in a possession the body is carried by coffin-bearers into the hills, and are placed to rest in large, stone, mausoleum type grave. Children who die before they have grown teeth are buried in a tree.
The surrounding countryside was beautiful, gently rolling hills and cascading rice terraces. One of the graveyards was more of a cave full of skulls, which was a disconcerting experience. People give offerings to the skulls (the most common being piles of cigarettes).



























































































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Old Posted Jul 4, 2011, 1:44 AM
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Whoa, some of these are pretty intense. So are all of the structures with the bowed roofs houses? Seems like some are too small and are probably elevated tombs.

Thanks for sharing, this is certainly a corner of the world I'd never have seen without these pics!
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Old Posted Jul 4, 2011, 3:09 AM
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Amazing. Simply amazing.
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Old Posted Jul 4, 2011, 4:24 AM
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Superb photo documentary.

A very fun and exciting thread, felt like I was there. Thank you!

All those skulls belong to head hunters or remnants ?
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Old Posted Jul 9, 2011, 9:57 AM
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Amazing tour - those houses are incredible.

What's the significance of the v-sign in Sulawesi?

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Old Posted Jul 9, 2011, 1:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShadowMaster View Post
All those skulls belong to head hunters or remnants ?
The skulls are just graves actually. After the insane funeral coffin bearers carry up the corpse to the hills and to the caves where they are left, until one day they become skulls!

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What's the significance of the v-sign in Sulawesi?
No idea. I'm guessing just the same as in most of Asia, just like a peace sign or whatever when posing for photo's.
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Old Posted Jul 10, 2011, 9:11 AM
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Congratulations!

These are also unique, interesting photos. I think these images are unknowns to most people on rest of the world. I look forward with great interest the encounter with the third part of your Indonesian pictures.
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Old Posted Jul 10, 2011, 3:03 PM
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What a wonderfully weird and unique place. Never seen anything like it. Thanks for sharing. I give it 5 stars.
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Old Posted Jul 12, 2011, 3:58 AM
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Great thread! Is there a practical reason for them to build their houses that way?
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Old Posted Jul 12, 2011, 5:24 AM
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thanks for a fascinating tour of a different world!
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Old Posted Jul 17, 2011, 4:08 PM
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Asian kids are the cutest!!
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  #12  
Old Posted Jul 18, 2011, 9:29 AM
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Great thread! Is there a practical reason for them to build their houses that way?
I don't think so no. There are various rumours as to why the houses are like that....some say it looks like buffalo horns (and buffalo's are pivotal to their culture), others say they represents sails, as the original settlers supposedly came from the sea....but really nobody knows for sure.
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